Long ago, long ago,
When times were stranger,
Once a Lady and her Son
Resyed in a manger,
In a manger on the straw.
The night was shrewd, the wind was raw,
And the dull fire, untended, kept
No comfort where the Infant slept.
Then she, too spent to mend the spark,
Spoke to the beast-enfolding dark.
"Oxen, lest He should come to harm,
Rise up and blow these embers warm
With youe great breath, for mercy's sake."
But the rapt oxen did not wake.
"Ass, will you breathe upon the flame?"
But the ass dozed nor heard his name,
While heavy the cart horse dreamed beside
His feeding box that Christmastide.
Then suddenly the midnight stirred.
In from the winter at her word
There flew a brown, south-seeking bird.
Bravest of small created things,
He made a bellows of his wings.
He puffed his feathers to a fan,
Singing, until the ash began
To kindle, to glow, to burn its best.
The flame leaped out. It seared his breast,
But still the robin, loud with praise,
Beat his quick wings before the blaze
So all the stable was beguiled
To warmth. And softly slept the Child.
"Dear robin," then the Lady said,
"Wear from now on a breast of red.
Where the fire was, let fire remain,
A blessed and perpetual stain
Burnt on your heart that all may see
The signature of Charity."
Long ago, long ago
When times were stranger
Once a robin served the Lord
Who rested in a manger.