Christmas Poem

December 25, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT

ROBERT PINSKY: The jovial playful 17th century poet Robert Herrick, who wrote many poems about the pleases of drink, sex and the playful sensuous life, was also a clergyman. Herrick wrote a Christmas carol to sing to the king in White Hall. His poem presents the holy baby born in December as a darling prince of flowers, a far from somber figure. Herrick lets religious feeling emerge from his joy in the world, the world of song, sunshine and flowers.

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honour to this Day,
That sees December turned to May.

If we may ask the reason, say
The why and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Spring-time of the year?

Why does chilling Winters morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like to a Mead new-shorn,

Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.

We see him come and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

The darling of the world is come
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him, and bequeath
The Holly, and this Ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

ROBERT PINSKY: I wish you a happy, blooming holiday season.