I travell'd thro' a land of men,
A land of men and women too;
And heard and saw such dreadful things
cold earth-wanderers never knew.
For there the Babe is born in joy
That was begotten in dire woe;
Just as we reap in joy the fruit
in bitter tears did sow.
And if the Babe is born a boy
He's given to a Woman Old,
Who nails him down upon a rock,
shrieks in cups of gold.
She binds iron thorns around his head,
She pierces both his hands and feet,
She cuts his heart out at his
To make it feel both cold and heat.
Her fingers number every nerve,
Just as a miser counts his gold;
She lives upon his shrieks and cries,
she grows young as he grows old.
Till he becomes a bleeding Youth,
And she becomes a Virgin bright;
Then he rends up his manacles,
binds her down for his delight.
He plants himself in all her nerves,
Just as a husbandman his mould;
And she becomes his dwelling-
And garden fruitful seventyfold.
And agèd Shadow, soon he fades,
Wandering round an earthly cot,
Full fillèd all with gems and gold
he by industry had got.
And these are the gems of the human soul,
The rubies and pearls of a love-sick eye,
The countless gold
of the aching heart,
The martyr's groan and the lover's sigh.
They are his meat, they are his drink
He feeds the beggar and the poor
And the wayfaring traveller:
ever open in his door.
His grief is their eternal joy;
They make the roofs and walls to ring;
Till from the fire on the hearth
Female Babe does spring.
And she is all of solid fire
And gems and gold, that none his hand
Dares stretch to touch her baby form,
wrap her in his swaddling-band.
But she comes to the man she loves,
If young or old, or rich or poor;
They soon drive out the Agèd Host,
beggar at another's door.
He wanders weeping far away,
Until some other take him in;
Oft blind and age-bent, sore distrest,
can a Maiden win.
And to allay his freezing age,
The poor man takes her in his arms;
The cottage fades before his sight,
garden and its lovely charms.
The guests are scatter'd thro' the land,
For the eye altering alters all;
The senses roll themselves in fear,
the flat earth becomes a ball;
The stars, sun, moon, all shrink away
A desert vast without a bound,
And nothing left to eat or drink,
a dark desert all around.
The honey of her infant lips,
The bread and wine of her sweet smile,
The wild game of her roving eye,
him to infancy beguile;
For as he eats and drinks he grows
Younger and younger every day;
And on the desert wild they both
in terror and dismay.