Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SLUMBER-SONGS OF THE MADONNA, by ALFRED NOYES



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SLUMBER-SONGS OF THE MADONNA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dante saw the great white rose
Last Line: You are mine, all mine!
Subject(s): Christmas; Nativity, The


PRELUDE

Dante saw the great white Rose
Half unclose;
Dante saw the golden bees
Gathering from its heart of gold
Sweets untold,
Love's most honeyed harmonies.

Dante saw the threefold bow
Strangely glow,
Saw the Rainbow Vision rise,
And the Flame that wore the crown
Bending down
O'er the flowers of Paradise.

Something yet remained, it seems;
In his dreams
Dante missed--as angels may
In their white and burning bliss--
Some small kiss
Mortals meet with every day.

Italy in splendor faints
'Neath her saints!
O, her great Madonnas, too,
Faces calm as any moon
Glows in June,
Hooded with the night's deep blue!

What remains? I pass and hear
Everywhere,
Ay, or see in silent eyes
Just the song she still would sing
Thus--a-swing
O'er the cradle where He lies.

I

Sleep, little Baby, I love Thee;
Sleep, little King, I am bending above Thee!
How should I know what to sing
Here in my arms as I swing Thee to sleep?
Hushaby low,
Rockaby so,
Kings may have wonderful jewels to bring,
Mother has only a kiss for her King!
Why should my singing so make me to weep?
Only I know that I love Thee, I love Thee,
Love Thee, my little One, sleep.

II

Is it a dream? Ah yet, it seems
Not the same as other dreams!
I can but think that angels sang,
When Thou wast born, in the starry sky,
And that their golden harps out-rang
While the silver clouds went by!
The morning sun shuts out the stars,
Which are much loftier than the sun;
But, could we burst our prison-bars
And find the Light whence light begun,
The dreams that heralded Thy birth
Were truer than the truths of earth;
And, by that far immortal Gleam,
Soul of my soul, I still would dream!

A ring of light was round Thy head,
The great-eyed oxen nigh Thy bed
Their cold and innocent noses bowed!
Their sweet breath rose like an incense cloud
In the blurred and mystic lanthorn light.
About the middle of the night
The black door blazed like some great star
With a glory from afar,
Or like some mighty chrysolite
Wherein an angel stood with white
Blinding arrowy bladed wings
Before the throne of the King of kings;
And, through it, I could dimly see
A great steed tethered to a tree.

Then, with crimson gems aflame
Through the door the three kings came,
And the black Ethiop unrolled
The richly broidered cloth of gold,
And poured forth before Thee there
Gold and frankincense and myrrh!

III

See, what a wonderful smile! Does it mean
That my little one knows of my love?
Was it meant for an angel that passed unseen,
And smiled at us both from above?
Does it mean that He knows of the birds and the flowers
That are watiting to sweeten His childhood's hours,
And the tales I shall tell and the games He will play,
And the songs we shall sing and the prayers we shall pray
In His boyhood's May,
He and I, one day?

IV

For in the warm blue summer weather
We shall laugh and love together:
I shall watch my baby growing,
I shall guide His feet,
When the orange trees are blowing
And the winds are heavy and sweet!

When the orange orchards whiten
I shall see His great eyes brighten
To watch the long-legged camels going
Up the twisted street,
When the orange trees are blowing
And the winds are sweet.

What does it mean? Indeed, it seems
A dream! Yet not like other dreams!

We shall walk in pleasant vales,
Listening to the shepherd's song
I shall tell Him lovely tales
All day long:
He shall laught while mother sings
Tales of fishermen and kings.
He shall see them come and go
O'er the wistful sea,
Where rosy oleanders blow
Round blue Lake Galilee,
Kings with fishers' ragged coats
And silver nets across their boats,
Dipping through the starry glow,
With crowns for Him and me!
Ah, no;
Crowns for Him, not me!

Rockaby so! Indeed, it seems
A dream! Yet not like other dreams!

V

Ah, see what a wonderful smile again!
Shall I hide it away in my heart,
To remember one day in a world of pain
When the years have torn us apart,
Little Babe,
When the years have torn us apart?

Sleep, my little One, sleep,
Child with the wonderful eyes,
Wild miraculous eyes,
Deep as the skies are deep!
What star-bright glory of tears
Waits in You now for the years
That shall bid You waken and weep?
Ah, in that day, could I kiss You to sleep
Then, little lips, little eyes,
Little lips that are lovely and wise,
Little lips that are dreadful and wise!

VI

Clenched little hands like crumpled roses
Dimpled and dear,
Feet like flowers that the dawn uncloses,
What do I fear?
Little hands, will you ever be clenched in anguish?
White little limbs, will you droop and languish?
Nay, what do I hear?
I hear a shouting, far away,
You shall ride on a kingly palm-strewn way
Some day!

But when You are crowned with a golden crown
And throned on a golden throne,
You'll forget the manger of Bethlehem town
And your mother that sits alone
Wondering whether the mighty King
Remembers a song she used to sing,
Long ago,
"Rockaby so,
Kings may have wonderful jewels to bring,
Mother has only a kiss for her King!" ...

Ah, see what a wonderful smile, once more!
He opens His great dark eyes!
Little child, little King, nay, hush, it is o'er,
My fear of those deep twin skies,--
Little Child,
You are all too dreadful and wise!

VII

But now You are mine, all mine,
And Your feet can lie in my hand so small,
And Your tiny hands in my heart can twine,
And You cannot walk, so You never shall fall,
Or be pierced by the thorns beside the door,
Or the nails that lie upon Joseph's floor;
Through sun and rain, through shadow and shine
You are mine, all mine!





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