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JOHN BEAUMONT: A METAPHYSICAL CHRISTMAS

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The last several days I have been posting some of the great Christmas poems from the English Metaphysical poets in The Literary Life. More are to come. The Metaphysical poets are usually thought of for their wild conceits, comparisons of one fairly ordinary concept to a wildly different concrete image. Often the imagery is grotesque. Here, for Christmas we have a poem in which the Savior contemplates his birth into the world as an infant suckling his mother’s breasts. See what you think?

Joseph Beaumont (1616-99)

Jesus inter Ubera Mariae
[Jesus between Mary’s Breasts]

In the coolness of the day,
The old world even, God all undressed went down
Without His robe, without His crown,
Into His private garden, there to lay
On spicy bed
His sweeter head.

There He found two beds of spice,
A double mount of lilies in whose top
Two milky fountains bubbled up.
He soon resolved: “And well I like!” He cries,
“My table spread
Upon my bed.”

Scarcely had He ‘gun to feed
When troops of cherubs hovered round about,
And on their golden wings they brought
All Eden’s flowers. But we cried out: “No need
Of flowers here!
Sweet spirits, forbear.”

“True, He needs no sweets,” say they;
“But sweets have need of Him, to keep them so;
Now paradise springs new with you,
Old Eden’s beauty all inclined this way;
And we are come
To bring them home.

“Paradise spring new with you,
Where ‘twixt those beds of lilies you may see
Of life the everlasting Tree.”
“Sweet is your reason,” then said we: “come strew
Your pious showers
Of eastern flowers.”

[CHORUS]

Winds awake! and with soft gale
Awake the odors of our garden too;
By which yourselves perfumed go
Through every quarter of your world, that all
Your sound may hear
And breathe your air.

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