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Buying property in Cummington inspires 'Fern-Beds in Hampshire County'


Poetry readings: A Christmas Hymn
Richard Wilbur Poet
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A Christmas Hymn

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbour heaven,
A stall become a shrine.
This Child through David's city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave His kingdom come.
Yet He shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's love refused again.
But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the Child
By whose descent among us
The world's are reconciled.

One thing I found by answering Richard Winslow's challenge was that if you write a hymn and you are serious about it, you have no business filling it with... with maverick notions of your own. A hymn has to be perfectly orthodox so that a congregation can stand up and... and belt it out with one voice, and that's an interesting constraint under which to work and, of course, a great... a great challenge. I'm glad to have met the challenge once. There are some, some people who, like Charles Wesley, who met it many times, and they have my admiration. Isaac Watts as well.


Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) published many books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.

Listeners: David Sofield

David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).

Tags: A Christmas Hymn, Richard Winslow, Isaac Watts

Duration: 2 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 29 September 2010