Scripture Verse

Did not our heart burn within us? Luke 24:32


Words: Adapted from Ro­bert South­well (cir­ca 1561–1595). Appeared in Old Christ­mas Carols, by Ri­chard R. Ter­ry (Lon­don: Burns, Oates & Wash­bourne, 1923).

Music: Tra­di­tion­al Ir­ish. Me­lo­dy from Old Ir­ish Folk Mu­sic and Songs, by Pat­rick Wes­ton Joyce (Lon­don & Dub­lin: Long­mans & Green and Hodg­es & Fig­gis, 1909) (🔊 pdf nwc).

Robert Southwell (ca. 1561–1595)
© National Portrait Gallery


As I in hoary winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat,
Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
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,
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,
Or feel My fire but I.

“My faultless breast the furnace is,
The fuèl wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,
The ashes shame and scorn.
The fuèl Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metals in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defilèd souls.

For which, as now on fire I am,
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,
And straight I callèd unto mind
That it was Christmas Day!