Four Thousand Years

Four thousand years from the creation
The world lay groaning under sin;
No one could e’er expect salvation,
No one could ever enter Heaven.
‘Twas Adam’s fall
Had damned us all
To Hell, to endless pains forlorn:
‘Twas so decreed
We’d ne’er been freed,
Had not this heavenly Babe been born.

Have you not heard the sacred story,
How man was made those seats to fill,
Which the fallen angels lost in glory
By their presumption, pride and will?
They thought us mean
For to obtain
Such glorious seats and crowns in heaven,
So through a cheat
They got Eve to eat
The fruit, to be avenged on man.

Thus we were lost, our God offended,
The devils triumphing in our shame.
What recompense could be pretended?
No man could ever wipe off the stain.
Till God alone
From His high throne
Becoming Man did us restore;
Let us rejoice
In tuneful voice,
Let Satan tremble and adore:

If by a woman we were wounded,
Another woman brings the cure;
If by a fruit we were confounded,
A tree our safety would procure.
They laughed at man,
But if they can,
Let Satan with his hellish swarms
Refuse to kneel
And honour yield
To the lovely Babe in Mary’s arms.

Ye faithful hearts be not offended
To own your God though seeming mean;
By this from Hell you were defended,
Your joys were purchased by His pain.
The Lord of all
Comes to a stall,
And to attend Him sends for Kings
Who by a star
Are called from far,
To see and hear those joyful things.

~ from “The Darkest Midnight in December” by William Devereux (1696-1771), publ. in A New Garland Containing Songs for Christmas (1728). There are several lovely settings, of which my favorite is the Celtic-sounding Waverly.


About middlingpoet

From the Gawain poet to Rainer Maria Rilke: I love traditional poetry.
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