When Christ was born in Bethlehem
Beneath a shining star
There came three wise men travelling
In joy to greet their new-born king
With gifts from countries far.
First stepped forth a mighty man,
Of the seven hilled Rome,
Whose feet on every coast had walked,
Whose sword in every land had fought,
Whose hand had raised a throne.
He said, “An empire I give to thee,
From whence thy Law may ring,
For those with earthly crowns ‘tis mete
To cast them down before thy feet
For gold befits a King.”
Next there came an aged man,
With hair as white as snow
Who pacing pondered soul and sky,
Why men rule and why they die,
The master of all who know.
“Source of all man’s hopes,” he said,
“And joy of his desire,
I offer thee philosophy
To savour ‘fore thy majesty
As frankincense in fire.”
Last with halting steps there came,
And reached a trembling hand
The master of Parnassus’s height,
Whose eyes had never seen the light,
But pierced the heart of man.
“Man of sorrow, songs I give
Of all that men endure;
Of wonder, sorrow, bed and grave,
The long, sad tale thou came to save,
Myth bittersweet as myrrh.”
Mother Mary took the gifts,
And Joseph laid them by.
Then knelt the three before the babe
Who in the humble manger lay
Beneath the star-lit sky.