Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
The Burning Babe
By Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595)
 
AS 1 I in hoary winter’s night
  Stood shivering in the snow
Surprised was I with sudden heat
  Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye        5
  To view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
  Did in the air appear;
Who, scorchèd with excessive heat,
  Such floods of tears did shed        10
As though His floods should quench His flames,
  Which with His tears were fed:
‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born
  In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts        15
  Or feel my fire but I!
 
‘My faultless breast the furnace is;
  The fuel, wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;
  The ashes, shames and scorns;        20
The fuel Justice layeth on,
  And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
  Are men’s defilèd souls:
For which, as now on fire I am        25
  To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
  To wash them in my blood.’
With this He vanish’d out of sight
  And swiftly shrunk away,        30
And straight I callèd unto mind
  That it was Christmas Day.
 
Note 1. Ben Jonson told Drummond of Hawthornden that he would have been content to destroy his own writings if he could have written this poem. [back]
 
 
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