Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
The Burning Babe
By Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595)
 
AS I in hoary winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was by 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 bred:
 
Alas, quoth he, but newly born,
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts        15
Or feel the 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 vanished out of sight,
And swiftly shrunk away,        30
And straight I callèd unto mind
That it was Christmas Day.
 
 
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