Three Kings Came Riding by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) another poem taken from The Book of Christmas
This is a long poem of fourteen verses telling the story of the journey of the Three Kings (Wise Men or Magi) to find the new saviour. I have known the poem since my own childhood and well remember the sense of romance about these mysterious figures making such a long journey. I also recall being absolutely baffled as to what frankincense and myrrh actually were.
I have just picked three verses to give a potted version of the story. The men set out following the star:
1) Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.
Along the way the travellers talk to people they meet of the child, and so Herod the Great hears.
He asks the Wise Men to bring him news from Bethlehem:
8) So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of the morn;
Yes, it stopped it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David where Christ was born.
The Three Kings found their way to the baby’s birth place and gave their gifts:
12) They laid their offerings at his feet;
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odour sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body’s burying.
After worshiping the new child, the Three Kings rode away and headed back to their homes in the East. They were wise enough not to return to King Herod, but travelled home a different way.
The painting here is by James Tissot which is in the Brooklyn Museum (image taken from Wikipedia).
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