Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

(1844-1911 / Andover, Massachusetts)

A Jewish Legend - Poem by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

I like that old, kind legend
Not found in Holy Writ,
And wish that John or Matthew
Had made Bible out of it.


But though it is not Gospel,
There is no law to hold
The heart from growing better
That hears the story told:-


How the little Jewish children
Upon a summer day,
Went down across the meadows
With the Child Christ to play.


And in the gold-green valley,
Where low the reed-grass lay,
They made them mock mud-sparrows
Out of the meadow clay.


So, when these all were fashioned,
And ranged in rows about,
'Now,' said the little Jesus,
'We'll let the birds fly out.'


Then all the happy children
Did call, and coax, and cry-
Each to his own mud-sparrow:
'Fly, as I bid you! Fly!'


But earthen were the sparrows,
And earth they did remain,
Though loud the Jewish children
Cried out, and cried again.


Except the one bird only
The little Lord Christ made;
The earth that owned Him Master,
-His earth heard and obeyed.


Softly He leaned and whispered:
'Fly up to Heaven! Fly!'
And swift, His little sparrow
Went soaring to the sky,


And silent, all the children
Stood, awestruck, looking on,
Till, deep into the heavens,
The bird of earth had gone.


I like to think, for playmate
We have the Lord Christ still,
And that still above our weakness
He works His mighty will,


That all our little playthings
Of earthen hopes and joys
Shall be, by His commandment,
Changed into heavenly toys.


Our souls are like the sparrows
Imprisoned in the clay,
Bless Him who came to give them wings
Upon a Christmas Day!


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010



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