And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

lørdag 28. desember 2013

Upon the Infant Martyrs - a poem for Childermas

The orders issued by a Herod's hand
MS. Yates Thompson 45, French Book of Hours (Use of Paris), last quarter of 14th century
Courtesy of British Library

In the Catholic sanctorale, today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating the infants slaughtered upon King Herod's command as described in the Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18. This tragic incident is one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the Christmas story, and has given great force to the Christian imagination, resulting in several artistic renditions or literary meditations.

The historicity of the massacre, however, is a matter of dispute among historians, especially since Matthew remains our only source. It has also effected religious debate, and for some it has been difficult to reconcile that the sacrifice of these children was linked to the good tidings of the Incarnation of the Word. One of those who were troubled by this, was the English poet Richard Crashaw (1612-49), and this can be seen in one of his poem, which is presented in this blogpost. The text is taken from poetryfoundation.

The Flight to Egypt and Massacre of the Innocents
MS. Royal 1 D X, English psalter, 13th century (before 1220)
Courtesy of British Library

Upon the Infant Martyrs

To see both blended in one flood,
The mothers’ milk, the children’s blood,
Make me doubt if heaven will gather
Roses hence, or lilies rather.

Particularly heart-wrenching rendition, even the marginal hybrid seems disturbed
MS. Stowe 12, English breviary, Use of Sarum, 1322-25
Courtesy of British Libary

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