Sweet, harmless lives! (on whose holy leisure Waits innocence and pleasure), Whose leaders to those pastures, and clear springs, Were patriarchs, saints, and kings, How happened it that in the dead of night You only saw true light, While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay Without one thought of day? Was it because those first and blessed swains Were pilgrims on those plains When they received the promise, for which now 'Twas there first shown to you? 'Tis true, He loves that dust whereon they go That serve Him here below, And therefore might for memory of those His love there first disclose; But wretched Salem, once His love, must now No voice, nor vision know, Her stately piles with all their height and pride Now languished and died, And Bethlem's humble cotes above them stepped While all her seers slept; Her cedar, fir, hewed stones and gold were all Polluted through their fall, And those once sacred mansions were now Mere emptiness and show; This made the angel call at reeds and thatch, Yet where the shepherds watch, And God's own lodging (though He could not lack) To be a common rack; No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury In those thin cells could lie, Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots Which never harbored plots, Only content, and love, and humble joys Lived there without all noise, Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day Did in their bosoms play, As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook, What springs or shades to look, But that was all; and now with gladsome care They for the town prepare, They leave their flock, and in a busy talk All towards Bethlem walk To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come To bring all stragglers home, Where now they find Him out, and taught before That Lamb of God adore, That Lamb whose days great kings and prophets wished And longed to see, but missed. The first light they beheld was bright and gay And turned their night to day, But to this later light they saw in Him, Their day was dark, and dim.