Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)
Towards a home and weeping wife,
my own soul right unstill,
I came to Ramah wintertide;
I left the pasture hills.
I found my wife a-kneeling there,
the empty cradle’s side,
And rocking, rocking naught at all,
“No more, no more,” she cried.
My child, my son, my only one,
Who from my hands did eat;
One hundred sons, all done, all gone
To dust, is Ramah’s seed.
No words of comfort passed my lips;
I had no peace to give,
For loss destroys what peace we make,
And we are left to live.
The season passed, but still my hands
Felt cold along the trip
Back to the pasture hills as if
They missed some small, warm grip.
But shortly after I arrived
A strange thing me befell;
Some other shepherds circled round,
They’d this strange tale to tell:
A host of angels flying o’er
The flocks amid starlight
Proclaimed all glory be to God
And peace on earth that night.
And they my friends and honest men,
I could scarce say they lied,
But turning to the town I thought,
An angel would have cried.
With these same thoughts I lay my head
To rest upon a stone—
When like to split the stone in two
I heard a trumpet blow!
I raised my eyes and saw a man
With meas’ring line in hand
I asked, “Where to?” And he replied,
“To where the city stands.”
I’d not have recognized it then
But for the signposts there
For all about where Ramah was
A pure light filled the air.
Four walls of fire with seven gates
Inviting us within,
On each inscribed this simple line:
“An End to Suffering.”
The man held out the meas’ring line
And bade me measure round;
“Good sir,” (said I) “I’d surely try,
If aught could span such grounds!”
“And more than that, it can’t be right
That such a holiness
Should rest on Ramah, whose sole lot
Is barren emptiness.”
“The length: twelve thousand stadia;
The width you’d find the same,”
Supplied the man in terse reply
And entered through the gate.
We walked along a golden road
That ran up to the square,
And there amidst a brilliant light,
I saw a child, still, fair.
A voice like thunder knocked me down:
“Behold my son, the Lord
Of Peace, whose government increases
O’er all within this world.”
“Now seek the things you can’t yet see,
Seek out this paradise;
For this, for peace on earth I gave
My son, my sacrifice.”
And as if waking from a dream
The vision fled my sight,
But ‘neath the starry canopy
Old Ramah seemed alight.
Though loss destroys what peace we make,
While we are left to live
Let us e’er praise the Lord above,
Who his own peace does give.
Joseph McDonough ’23 is a sophomore in Kirkland House studying Philosophy.