Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Gift

(Adoration of the Magi by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669,
Dutch painter, printmaker, and draughtsman)

Today is the feast of Epiphany.

“The star they had seen in the East went before them, until it came and stood over the place where the child was. And when they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly. And they entered the house, and they found the child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” ~ Matthew 2:10-11


As the wise men of old brought gifts
guided by a star
to the humble birthplace

of the god of love,
the devils
as an old print shows
retreated in confusion.

What could a baby know
of gold ornaments
or frankincense and myrrh,
of priestly robes
and devout genuflections?

But the imagination
knows all stories
before they are told
and knows the truth of this one
past all defection.

The rich gifts
so unsuitable for a child
though devoutly proffered,
stood for all that love can bring.

The men were old
how could they know
of a mother’s needs
or a child’s

But as they kneeled
the child was fed.

They saw it
gave praise!

A miracle
had taken place,
hard gold to love,
a mother’s milk!
their wondering eyes.

The ass brayed
the cattle lowed.
It was their nature.

All men by their nature give praise.
It is all
they can do.

The very devils
by their flight give praise.
What is death,
beside this?

Nothing. The wise men
came with gifts
and bowed down
to worship
this perfection.

~ William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), American poet and practicing physician

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