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The Vale of Nazareth

Benjamin Kerr Maltby

A 19-century engraving of Nazareth and its environs.The engraving of Nazareth
which inspired Maltby’s poem
(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Knowest thou of Him, gentle valley,
Him who comes to be thy guest?
With thee, though in smiling childhood,
Thrown like infant on thy breast?

He whose voice shall rouse the nations—
At whose scepter Earth shall bow,
Makes His home amidst thy shadows—
Naz’reth hath no equal now!

Infant-like—yet who may know Him?
Human is He, or Divine?
Is that light from Earth or Heaven
That doth on His spirit shine?

Lo, He comes a child-like exile
From Egypta’s far abode!
Hidden erst, while Judah’s tyrant
O’er the graves of infants strode.

Tranquil as the summer’s morning
Is the youthful stranger’s brow,
And that eye is heavenward turning,
Radiant with its sunlight now.

Lo, he comes! His gentle footsteps
Thread the windings of the vale—
Comes while words of mystic sweetness,
Give new accents to the gale.

Here where circling hills ascending
Shelter sweetest slopes beneath,
Throwing up their rugged bosoms
Round thy vale, O Nazareth!

Hither comes He—watchful guardians
With no eye surveying them,
Seek thy refuge—here His shelter,
Outcast erst from Bethlehem.

Is He God or is he mortal?
Human is he or Divine?
Childhood only seemeth on Him—
Mild the rays that round Him shine.

Yet ere long the winds that echo
From the mountain’s summit drear,
When their voice is waked to thunders
Shall His softest whisper hear.1

Yonder Galilee is sleeping,
All its billows rocked to rest;
Yet ere long when lashed with tempests,
He shall walk its foaming breast.

Yonder bark upon its bosom,
Couch of wearied fishermen;
Monster deeps may ope to take it,
He shall snatch it from their den!

And when earth and sky is deafened
By the whirlwind’s angry roar,
It shall hear His softest accents
And shall give its fury o’er.

On yon hillside slope is Cana,
Hastening on to festal hour
When her wedding guests shall know Him
In His earliest march of power.

In His pathway Nain is lying,
Yet to meet him with her dead—
He shall live—a mother’s sorrows
Cease when He the word has said.

Bethany her cold pale sleeper
In her rocky grave shall bring—
One “He loveth”—Lo, he waketh,
Wrested from the grisly king.

Demons listening, shall with trembling
Hasten from His lifted hand—
Sickness grim desert its victim,
Startled by His mild command.

Such is He whose name immortal
Bears the stamp of Nazareth,
And that vale its name hath wedded
Fast to one that hath no death.

Sheltered in its lone enclosure,
Him a humble guest it knew,
Took within its arms His childhood,
Round His youth its blessings threw;

Saw Him labor with its fountains
Quenched His thirst at noontide warm;
Threw its summer shade around Him,
Clothed him for the winter’s storm.

All its groves their arms extended,
Hailed Him oft by night or day,
Even wept when He had sorrow—
Bowed when He had knelt to pray;

Fanned His brow with gentle breezes
When from toil He sank to rest,
Watched Him—held its proffered blessings,
And again in Him was blest.

Now His name, though high exalted,
Bears the stamp of Nazareth,
And that vale its name hath wedded
Fast to one that hath no death.


Lyre and Wreath, used under license from www.123rf.com (santi0103/123RF Stock Photo)

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Image credit: Copyright: santi0103/123RF Stock Photo
Used under license
  1. A snatched phrase from this tenth stanza is quoted by Isaiah Reid in Our Mount Sinais.
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