Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 287. The Mystery of the Incarnation
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
287. The Mystery of the Incarnation
By Laurence Housman  (b. 1865)
  
A DISPUTATION BETWEEN CHRIST AND THE HUMAN FORM
(For the Feast of the Nativity)


COMEST Thou peaceably, O Lord?
  ‘Yea, I am Peace!
Be not so fearful to afford
Thy Maker room! for I am the Reward
  To which all generations of increase        5
  Looking did never cease.
 
‘Down from amid dark wings of storm
  I set My Feet
To earth. Will not My earth grow warm
To feel her Maker take the form       10
  He made, when now, Creation’s purpose meet,
  Man’s body is to be God’s Mercy-seat?’
 
Lord, I am foul: there is no whole
  Fair part in me
  Where Thou canst deign to be!       15
This form is not Thy making, since it stole
  Fruit from the bitter Tree.
‘Yet still thou hast the griefs to give in toll
That I may test the sickness of man’s soul.’
 
O Lord, my work is without worth!       20
  I am afraid,
Lest I should man the blissful Birth.
Quoth Christ, ‘Ere seas had shores, or earth
  Foundations laid,
  My Cross was made!’       25
 
‘Naught canst thou do that was not willed
  By Love to be,
  To bring the Work to pass through Me.
  No knee
  Stiffens, or bends before My Sov’reignty,       30
But from the world’s beginning hath fulfilled
Its choice betwixt the valleyed and the hilled.
  For both, at one decree,
My Blood was spilled.’
 
Yet canst Thou use these sin-stained hands?       35
  ‘These hands,’ quoth Christ,
  ‘Of them I make My need:
Since they sufficed to forge the bands
  Wherein I hunger, they shall sow the seed!
  And with bread daily they shall feed       40
My Flesh till, bought and bound, It stands
  A Sacrifice to bleed.’
 
Lord, let this house be swept and garnished first!
  For fear lest sin
  Do there look in,       45
Let me shut fast the windows: lest Thou thirst,
Make some pure inner well of waters burst:
  For no sweet water can man’s delving win—
Earth is so curst.
Also bar up the door: Thou wilt do well       50
To dwell, whilst with us, anchorite in Thy cell.
 
Christ said ‘Let be: leave wide
  All ports to grief!
Here when I knock I will not be denied
The common lot of all that here abide;       55
  Were I so blinded, I were blind in chief:
  How should I see to bring the blind relief?
 
Wilt Thou so make Thy dwelling? Then I fear
Man, after this, shall dread to enter here:
For all the inner courts will be so bright,       60
He shall be dazzled with excess of light,
  And turn, and flee!
‘But from his birth I will array him right,
And lay the temple open for his sight,
  And say to help him, as I bid him see:       65
  “This is for thee!” ’

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