. . there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel...
To make a child, now swadled, to proceede Man, and then shoote up. . .
Ben Jonson, Prologue to Everyman in His Humour
THE SECOND SONNET continues the paradox of the Nativity: the child nursed at its mother's breast is the man who will drink hyssop on the Cross. To Thomas the epiphany of hope is only another metaphor of death, another shape or apparition in one history. The sonnet recalls a sixteenth-century carol and Milton's "On the orning of Christ's Nativity":
Jesu, God's Son, born He was
In a crib with hay and grass,
And died for us on the Cross
Gloria Tibi, Domine. 1
The Babe lies yet in smiling Infancy,
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss
( Stanza xvi, ll. 151-153)
There is a distortion of traditional Nativity episodes: the Child suckled at his mother's breast in the manger becomes "the child that sucketh long"; the star of Bethlehem