The Slaughter of the Innocent by Order of King Herod

His hope undone, now raves the impious king

In raging wrath – if king we call that thing

Who justice lacks not rules his passions right.

So raves a lion, fierce from hunger’s spite,

When from his jaws the tender lamb takes flight.

He rushes on the harmless flock amain

To read, to mangle: — O’er the bloody plain

The air is filled with bleating cries in vain.

This ruthless Herod, when his prey he lost,

Let loose red Murder on the harmless host

Of Bethlem’s babes.

Why die this multitude?

Their lips, scarce oped to breathe, are choked in blood!

Not reason, Fury rules the king, who slays

The first weak wail of Life — nor slaughter stays

Till guiltless thousands fall. One fearful cry —

A thousand Mothers’ shriek! —assails the sky.

One tears the tresses from her head — one rends

Her cheeks — one smites her naked chest, one bends, —

Ah, hapless Mother! ’tis night mother’s breast

Upon the cold lips for thy child thou’st prest!

© Caelius Sedulius (5th century)

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