The Great War

from Late Songs, an electronic edition

The Story of the Bambino

What is it like a light that goes

Swaddled in gold from head to toes

With chanting cleric and acolyte

In the crimson and in the white.

'Tis the Bambino goeth with speed

To succour a woman in her need,

For the dear Lady's sake who lay

And bore her Son in the cattle's hay.

The woman is taken in mortal strait.

Peace! the Bambino is at the gate!

The woman cries from her loneliness.

Peace! the Bambino cometh to bless!

Three fair sons she hath borne in pain:

The three lie out in the night and rain.

Dear Bambino, dear holy one,

Save for this mother one little son!

To her own heart she speaks: If he,

The blest Bambino, would stay with me,

Surely my pangs would be light and short,

Nor the little bird new-'scaped take hurt.

Joy and peace would be mine and his

Who comes when the travail hardest is.

Surely my little son would thrive

Nor go to his brothers who would not live.

Under the linen sheet there is

Another Bambino like to this;

Painted so fine, carven so well,

No man could one from the other tell.

The dear Bambino by her is laid,

Joy is come to the childing-bed.

She takes from Bambino his robe and crown;

The false Bambino hath a gold gown.

On the Bambino she turns the key:

I and my babe shall have joy: saith she.

Her travail is over; the child is come

No finer baby may be in Rome.

The women cry from their beds and pray:

Blessed Bambino, where dost thou stay

The priests come singing their hymns and bear

The false Bambino high in the air.

The people drop on their knees and cry

Viva Bambino! while that goes by.

Bambino goeth in gold and white;

No woman is eased of her grief to-night.

For the true Bambino lieth forlorn,

Naked as Christ in the stable born.

Patience, Lordkin, the woman saith:

Who has saved this night my son from death,

I will build Bambino so fair a shrine

For Ara Cœli he will not pine.

He shall have a cradle as soft as down,

And finest woollen to be his gown,

Not stiff with jewels, nor miniver,

But soft for a precious baby dear.

The night is dark and the snows fall.

What is it flits by the outer wall?

There's a patter of naked feet, as soft

As Mary kissed in the cattle-croft.

Whence is this baby in the chill light,

Ringed about with a ring of light?

The Burning Bush that Moses saw,

And a golden bird in the golden shaw.

At Ara Cœli they sleep and dream.

What is it flits in the wet moonbeam?

The bell soundeth, the knocker too:

Let me in: I have much to do.

Let me in, for I heard as I ran

The women call me in street and lane.

The sleepy brother is come awake:

Who is it knocketh before daybreak?

A little child on the door doth knock.

Oh, hear them crying, my piteous folk!

The door was opened and in there came

A naked child in a golden flame.

The rain falls and the wind blows;

In comes Bambino, fresh as a rose.

The women called me and I made haste.

I, the Bambino, have travelled fast.

One hath taken my robe away:

His feet are plaster, his body clay.

He hath no healing for them that cry

On me in their bitter agony.

They have stripped the false usurper bare;

They have taken the crown of gold from his hair.

They have cast him out, of his splendour shorn,

He hath no care for the people's scorn.

Once more Bambino goes up and down

The steep high streets of the groaning town,

And climbs the stairway, and through the door

Brings life and healing as oft before.

The shrine in Ara Cœli hath

Many new cradles, many a wreath.