Census in Bethlehem (Version 2)

With Christmas fast approaching and my family already in holiday mode, I took to revising a poem for the season. Here it is, dusted off with line breaks improved and some phrasing reconsidered. I’ve kept it in 4 voices. Enjoy!

Census in Bethlehem


My older cousins got here first and even filled the shed,

but uncle says he’s got a cave where we can lay our heads.

He cleaned it out, but had no other place to put his ewe,

but that’s okay, we’ll be alright; we’ll leave ‘fore Mary’s due.


Aha! The gods have smiled on me; the gov’ner’s called mankind

to gather here in hungry hoards; my profits come to mind:

They’ll pay for nuts at twice the price, they’ll sleep behind my stall.

Ah, David! It’s a providence that softer beds are full.

It’s money time, salvation’s here, the night is swelling loud.

I hear that some are even letting stables to this crowd.


I’m glad we’re on the skirting hills beyond the city’s wall,

For though the thrum and music drifts, it’s quieter, all-in-all.

And here of course we see more stars – their gentle, painted light –

Yes, this we have, and richer sleep – not so the urbanite.

But now! What terror, growing star, is falling to the ground!

An angel and a heav’nly host! So bright and closing round!

And so at last God’s wrath has come to splay us on these rocks.

As payment for our daily sins He’ll feast upon our flocks.


No, no, dear man, be calm and still: Fear not, for you dear men,

are first to hear our news of joy that lands in Bethlehem.

Within that town, that bustling place, there comes a treasure true;

“The heel that crushes and is bit” is given now to you.

Look down into the yellow streets beyond the loud bazaar,

and find a babe in cloth and trough beneath the newest star.

Then filling up the skies they sang: All glory be to God

and peace to all with whom he’s pleased upon this earthen sod.

The shepherds ran through town and found that blessed stable ward

with newborn child, Emmanuel, called Jesus Christ: the Lord.

One thought on “Census in Bethlehem (Version 2)

  1. Joe, I really like this poem. It gives an idea of what things may have been like from the different people’s perspectives. And thanks for leaving a comment on my blog at vineandfig.blogspot.com . For some reason, I can read it from the Blogger dashboard, but it won’t show up on the blog itself–though my blog isn’t set to make comments wait for approval. I’ll see whether it shows up in an hour or so; if not, will copy/paste into a new comment there so that people will have the cross-link to your blog. Incidentally, as I’m sure you know, there’s lots of really dreadful Christian poetry on the internet–stuff that’s either horrible theologically or horrible poetically. Thanks for aiming at both art and truth.

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