Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: To Jesus on His Birthday

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland in the late nineteenth century and remains one of America’s best-known poets. In today’s poem she speaks to Christ about the way his birthday is celebrated in the modern world.

To Jesus on His Birthday by Edna St. Vincent Millay

For this your mother sweated in the cold,
For this you bled upon the bitter tree:
A yard of tinsel ribbon bought and sold;
A paper wreath; a day at home for me.
The merry bells ring out, the people kneel;
Up goes the man of God before the crowd;
With voice of honey and with eyes of steel
He drones your humble gospel to the proud.
Nobody listens. Less than the wind that blows
Are all your words to us you died to save.
O Prince of Peace! O Sharon’s dewy Rose!
How mute you lie within your vaulted grave.
The stone the angel rolled away with tears
Is back upon your mouth these thousand years.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1928, 1955 by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Reprinted by permission of Holly Peppe, Literary Executor, The Millay Society. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at 207-228-8263 or poetlaureate@mainewriters.org.