Childermas Poetry by Christina Rossetti

“La Strage degli Innocenti,” by Giotto; fresco; 1305.

Below are two poems by Christina Rossetti, each entitled “Holy Innocents”; the first was written in 1877, the second sometime before 1893. Both were published posthumously in 1904.

HT: Patrick Comerford

They scarcely waked before they slept,
They scarcely wept before they laughed;
They drank indeed death’s bitter draught,
But all its bitterest dregs were kept
And drained by Mothers while they wept.

From Heaven the speechless Infants speak:
Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear,
For swords nor sorrows come not here.
Now we are strong who were so weak,
And all is ours we could not seek.

We bloom among the blooming flowers,
We sing among the singing birds;
Wisdom we have who wanted words:
here morning knows not evening hours,
All’s rainbow here without the showers.
And softer than our Mother’s breast,
And closer than our Mother’s arm,
Is here the Love that keeps us warm
And broods above our happy nest.
Dear Mothers, come: for Heaven is best.

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Unspotted lambs to follow the one Lamb,
Unspotted doves to wait on the one Dove;
To whom Love saith, ‘Be with Me where I am,’
And lo their answer unto Love is love.

For tho’ I know not any note they know,
Nor know one word of all their song above,
I know Love speaks to them, and even so
I know the answer unto Love is love.

+VDMA