> Folk Music > Songs > The Burning Babe

The Burning Babe

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 12602 ; Robert Southwell S.J.]

The Burning Babe is a poem written by Father Robert Southwell S.J. in 1594 while awaiting execution in the Tower of London. Mike Hockenhull adapted the tune of Rick Kemp’ song Somewhere Along the Road to this poem and sang it in 2006 on the Free Reed anthology Midwinter.


Mike Hockenhull sings The Burning Babe

As I in hoary Winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat,
Which made my heart to glow.

And lifting up a fearful eye,
To view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright
Did in the air appear.

Who, scorched with excessive heart,
Such floods of tears did shed,
As though his floods should quench his flames,
With which his tears were fed.

Alas (quoth he) but newly born,
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts,
Or feel my fire, but I.

My faultless breast the furnace is,
The fuel, wounding thorns:
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,
The ashes, shame and scorn.

The fuel Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defiled souls.

For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
To wash them in my blood.

With this he vanished out of sight,
And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind,
That it was Christmas Day.