Lord, when the wise men came from far
Sidney Godolphin (1610–1643)
Lord, when the wise men came from far,
Led to thy cradle by a star,
Then did the shepherds too rejoice,
Instructed by thy Angel’s voice:
Blest were the wise men in their skill
And shepherds in their harmless will.
Wise men in tracing Nature’s laws
Ascend unto the highest cause;
Shepherds with humble fearfulness
Walk safely, though their light be less:
Though wise men better know the way
It seems no honest heart can stray.
There is no merit in the wise
But love (the shepherds’ sacrifice);
Wise men, all ways of knowledge past,
To the shepherds’ wonder come at last:
To know can only wonder breed,
And not to know is wonder’s seed.
A wise man at the altar bows
And offers up his studied vows,
And is received—may not the tears,
Which springs too from a shepherd’s fears,
And sighs upon his frailty spent,
Though not distinct, be eloquent?
‘Tis true, the object sanctifies
All passions which within us rise,
But since no creature comprehends
The cause of causes, end of ends,
He who himself vouchsafes to know
Best pleases his Creator so.
When, then, our sorrows we apply,
To our own wants and poverty,
When we look up in all distress
And our own misery confess,
Sending both thanks and prayers above—
Then, though we do not know, we love.