Christmas in Legend and Story by  Elva S. Smith

The Star Bearer

Edmund Clarence Stedman

There were seven angels erst that spanned

Heaven's roadway out through space,

Lighting with stars, by God's command,

The fringe of that high place

Whence plumèd beings in their joy,

The servitors His thoughts employ,

Fly ceaselessly. No goodlier band

Looked upward to His face.

There, on bright hovering wings that tire

Never, they rested mute,

Nor of far journeys had desire,

Nor of the deathless fruit;

For in and through each angel soul

All waves of life and knowledge roll,

Even as to nadir streamed the fire

Of their torches resolute.

They lighted Michael's outpost through

Where fly the armored brood,

And the wintry Earth their omens knew

Of Spring's beatitude;

Rude folk, ere yet the promise came,

Gave to their orbs a heathen name,

Saying how steadfast in men's view

The watchful Pleiads stood.

All in the solstice of the year,

When the sun apace must turn,

The seven bright angels 'gan to hear

Heaven's twin gates outward yearn:

Forth with its light and minstrelsy

A lordly troop came speeding by,

And joyed to see each cresset sphere

So gloriously burn.

Staying his fearless passage then

The Captain of that host

Spake with strong voice: "We bear to men

God's gift the uttermost,

Whereof the oracle and sign

Sibyl and sages may divine:

A star shall blazon in their ken,

Borne with us from your post.

"This night the Heir of Heaven's throne

A new-born mortal lies!

Since Earth's first morning hath not shone

Such joy in seraph eyes."

He spake. The least in honor there

Answered with longing like a prayer,—

"My star, albeit thenceforth unknown,

Shall light for you Earth's skies."

Onward the blessed legion swept,

That angel at the head;

(Where seven of old their station kept

There are six that shine instead.)

Straight hitherward came troop and star;

Like some celestial bird afar

Into Earth's night the cohort leapt

With beauteous wings outspread.

Dazzling the East beneath it there,

The Star gave out its rays:

Right through the still Judean air

The shepherds see it blaze,—

They see the plume-borne heavenly throng,

And hear a burst of that high song

Of which in Paradise aware

Saints count their years but days.

For they sang such music as, I deem,

In God's chief court of joys,

Had stayed the flow of the crystal stream

And made souls in mid-flight poise;

They sang of Glory to Him most High,

Of Peace on Earth abidingly,

And of all delights the which, men dream,

Nor sin nor grief alloys.

Breathless the kneeling shepherds heard,

Charmed from their first rude fear,

Nor while that music dwelt had stirred

Were it a month or year:

And Mary Mother drank its flow,

Couched with her Babe divine,—and, lo!

Ere falls the last ecstatic word

Three Holy Kings draw near.

Whenas the star-led shining train

Wheeled from their task complete,

Skyward from over Bethlehem's plain

They sped with rapture fleet;

And the angel of that orient star,

Thenceforth where Heaven's lordliest are,

Stands with a harp, while Christ doth reign,

A seraph near His feet.

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