The Three Kings
Three kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Casper and Balthazar.
Three wise men of the East were they,
And they traveled by night, and slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.
The star was so beautiful, large and clear
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere.
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.
Three caskets they bore on their saddle bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys.
Their robes were of crimson, with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows*
Their turbans like blossoming almond trees.
And so the three kings rode into the west,
Through the dust of night over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes they talked as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.
“Of the Child that is born,” said Balthazar,
“Good people, we pray you, tell us the news.
For we, in the east, have seen His star,
And have ridden fast and have ridden far
To find and worship the king of the Jews.”
But the people answered: “You ask in vain.
We know of no king but Herod the Great.”
They thought of the wise men as men insane,
As they sped their camels across the plain,
Like riders in haste who could not wait.
And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the wise men and questioned them;
And said, “Go down unto Bethlehem,
And then bring me tidings of this new king.”
So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the gray of 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.
And the three kings rode through the gate and the guard
Through the silent street, till their camels turned
And slowed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were locked, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.
And cradled there on the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine
The little Child in the manger lay,
The Child that would be king one day
Of a kingdom, not human, but divine.
His mother, Mary of Nazareth,
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of His breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.
They laid their offering at His feet;
Their gold was their tribute to a king;
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the priest, the paraclete**
The myrrh, for the body’s burying.
And the mother wondered, and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone;
Her heart was troubled, yet comforted,
Remembering what the angel had said
Of an endless reign of David’s throne.
Then the kings rode out of the city gate,
With a tramp of hoofs in proud array,
But they went not back to Herod the Great
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
So they returned to their homes by another way.
*ruffles or other showy ornamentation
**the Comforter, advocate, one called to help