Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Census at Bethlehem, Pieter Bruegel (1525-1569)


The day was done, and slowly in the west
Judea’s sun was sinking low to rest,
And o’er the top of Gedor cast a glow
Of deep’ning crimson. The twilight fadings grow
Far in the east, and with their waning light
Throw dark’ning shadows, heralds of the night,
O’er Bethlehem. Fair Bethlehem, set in
Mid scenes of beauty; city of the King
Of David, Juda’s pride; the sun’s last ray
Kisses thy walls with love, then fades away.

To Bethlehem this winter’s eve there come
Two travelers, who haste ere day is done
To reach the inn: and one of them, a man,
Of stately mein, with eagers eyes does scan
The roadway through the town—a princely form
Tall and erect, his liquid eyes, so warm,
With tender friendship shone; and by his side
Upon a patient animal, does ride
A woman veiled, but see, her veil falls low,
Her face is clear, lit by the sunset’s glow.

Surpassing fair, by right, for it is she
Who is the mother of the Christ, to be:
‘Tis Mary, and her soul’s exceeding grace
Is greater than all else. They reach the place
Of rest, they stop, and Joseph, for ‘tis he,
Enters, but soon returns and plain to see
With disappointment weighed, ‘tis true not there
Is room for them; it seems as though nowhere
They may find rest. At last he leads the way
Out of the town, out in the twilight gray.

Sadly they wander on, the dying day
Now fading fast has almost fled away,
The Virgin fainter grows, but soon they see
A hillside cavern—here their rest shall be.
They haste, they reach the place, they enter in,
The cave is cold, ‘tis full of shadows dim.
It is a stable, for against the wall
Are straw-filled mangers, meant for cattle stall.
Here is their rest, they raise their hearts above
With grateful prayers for God’s protecting love.

--Henry S. Kirk (1895)
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On 8/12/08 , Jenna Consolo said...


On 8/12/08 , Virtualsprite said...

Another gorgeous poem. I love coming here during the day and getting peace reading the poems you are compiling here. Thank you.

On 22/12/08 , Goofball said...

Last Friday we got together with a few other Christians as we do every so many weeks and this time we worked around this painting from Bruegel. In all honesty, I had not seen it before.

We chose where we thought we were on the painting and why, what it meant etc. It was a very good evening. By the way, I think I was in the crowd of the cencus, getting nervous of the waiting time and the man behind me who surely had pushed me in the back :p.

I love how many little details you can discover on Bruegel's paintings eg the playing kids, the pig being slaughtered, ... and oh yes in the middle there's Mary, Joseph and Jezus.

don't you love it that the church isn't in the middle of the painting but far away of all the action? That Jezus is in the middle of all day-to-day life, rather unnoticed but present? I liked it.