the best gift we receive is the one that we give

I penned this poem back in the 20th century (!), and often share it
around winter holiday times.
(If it’s summer where you are, it still works.)
The photo detail is from “The Adoration of the Shepherds and Angels,”
a stained glass work by Robert Anning Bell, St. Remigius, Hethersett, UK.

Detail, "Adoration of the Shepherds and Angels"

Dawn awakens, morning time
When Lovers of Peace keep pace with the rhyme
Of the heart’s own beating, the drumming within,
The Life-Force eternal in Gaia’s constant spin
Soul-healing rhythms, the dance Earth-inspired
Bones bleached and knowing lie close to the fire,
Witness to the story that never will end,
The truth that is passed between Lover and Friend…

In the vast light of dawn comes a gentle sparrow’s cry
She asks the young prince, “You come here, yet why?”
“You knock, yet not enter
You speak, yet not sing
You fly not, you soar not
You spread not your wings-
Who sent you forth and to what end?
What quest is yours, my sweet humble friend?”


The Prince remains solemn, an angel’s voice mute
And there at his side a silver flute
Hangs quietly, void of breath and of tune,
No celestial music fills not one earthly room
No princely lips laid upon this thin neck
No princely fingers play, not one bedecked
In golden rings with knots entwined,
All Nature waits for his song sublime!
Yet Winter lies upon this heart
And inhabits a time stood still and stark.


The sparrow hovers quite so near
And plucks with beak a strand of hair
Thick and golden, hay spun fine,
A piece of Heaven’s fairest twine –
She meets the Prince with piercing eyes
And asks, “How shall I pay you for this singular prize?”


The Prince looks up to meet the bird’s gaze,
Eyes afire with thoughts of warm summer days
“How could it be,” he asks the sparrow,
“That my lock of hair graces your tomorrow?
“It’s nothing save a piece of string,
It won’t help one fly! It can’t help one sing!”
“Alas,” the bird replies aloft,
“It shines as the sun and like a cloud is soft,
This strand will help me build my nest
My eggs will sit more safely than the rest!
Do not belittle this gift so rare,
Simply tell me what would be payment fair!”


The Prince now ponders the question anew,
“What could I receive from the likes of you?
A tiny bird, two spindly legs!
I would not even eat your wretched eggs!
And yet you sing as I cannot –
I know I once could, but I fear I’ve forgot,
And fly? I’d like to soar above,
Held safely in the wings of Love,
Fearful not of ever falling; swooping, gliding, gaily calling
To other birds and wing-ed ones who live for Earth and Sky and Sun,
Perhaps the gifts of song and flight
Might bring our barter round to right.”


The offer made, the bird was still – until her song began its trill
And others joined! A glorious song!
The Heavens resounding so strong and long!
A Light encircled the Prince so fair, raising him high into the air –
Illuminated he now became, upon his neck a golden mane,
Strands aplenty of silver-gold light,
The stars themselves beamed at the magnificent sight!
And then from the throat of this once-silent one
A most Divine song rose up toward the Sun!
And he followed soon after, with wings stretched wide,
No fear lived inside him, and nothing to hide-
Soon Winter moved out and Spring took its place
And the glow returned to the fair Prince’s face.

For the Prince learned the lesson we all must now live:
The best gift we receive is the one that we give.

4 thoughts

  1. love the message here. also great write, I really liked the wording and it’s filled with so much beauty. Great piece Rachel :-)


  2. What a glorious poem, Rachel, with a very deep message. Thank you for “dusting” it off in time for our Christmas. The stained glass artwork complements your poem very well.


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