Softly the sunbeams gleamed athwart the Temple proud and high—
Built up by Israel’s wisest to the Lord of earth and sky—
Lighting its gorgeous fretted roof, and every sacred fold
Of mystic veil—from gaze profane that hid the ark of old.
Ne’er could man’s gaze have rested on a scene more rich and bright:
Agate and porphyry—precious gems—cedar and ivory white,
Marbles of perfect sheen and hue, sculptures and tintings rare,
With sandal wood and frankincense perfuming all the air.
But see, how steals up yonder aisle, with rows of columns high,
A female form, with timid step and downcast modest eye;—
A girl she seems by the fresh bloom that decks her lovely face—
With locks of gold and vestal brow, and form of childish grace.
Yet, no! those soft, slight arms enfold a helpless new-born child,
Late entered on this world of woe—still pure and undefiled;
While two white doves she humbly lays before the altar there
Tell that, despite her girlish years, she knows a matron’s care.
No fairer sight could heart have asked than that which met the view,
E’en had He been the child of sin—and she a sinner, too;
But how must heavenly hosts have looked in breathless rapture on,
Knowing Him, as the Temple’s Lord—the Word—th’Eternal Son!
While she was that Maid Mother rare—fairest of Adam’s race,
Whom Heaven’s Archangel, bending low, had hailed as full of grace,—
The Mother of that infant God close clasped unto her breast—
the Mary humble, meek and pure, above all women blessed.