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An Excerpt from The Western Star

for Epiphany, January 6, 2022

The road stretched out forever in the morning,
giving Balthazar plenty of time and space
for thought. The meanderings of his mind returned
to that strange gift old Caspar meant to give
in honor of the newborn king of kings.
The gift of death! It made no sense to him,
and so he opened wide his mouth to protest
once again his friend’s peculiar choice.
But ere he had a chance to say a word,
old Caspar, eyes aglint, slipped into song:

.

Oh, Myrrh is mine, and Gold is thine,
And Frankincense for thee;
Three precious things from noble kings,
From gilded monarchs three,
We give to him the Seraphim
Regard with loving sight;
But will he take to our mistake
In giving what is right?

Thy Frankincense is worth mere pence
To what he giveth us;
Thy glistening Gold is dull and old,
As pretty as the dust;
My bitter Myrrh, though rare and pure,
He, rarer, purer still,
Gives up his love from high above
And hands to us his will.

Then why do we in piety
Present him toys in vain?
We sure cannot with items bought
Relieve him of his pain.
But one thing we can do with three
Small tokens stained with thrift,
Forever drawn to ponder on
The glory of his gift.

.

“You do not understand my offering,”
old Caspar simply stated, “nor I yours.
What use is frivolous frankincense to one
of selfless spirit, born in purity?”

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Jack DesBois is a singer, actor, and storyteller. He gives annual Epiphany season performances of The Western Star, which he wrote in 2016. He self-published a chapbook of short poems in 2018. As a singer, Jack has had the good fortune to solo in several of the great works of Baroque Oratorio, including Handel’s Messiah (Bass) and Esther (Haman) and J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion (Jesus). Jack lives in Topsfield, Massachusetts. 


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4 Responses

  1. Margaret Coats

    Lovely song with internal rhymes, and focusing unexpectedly on the lack of value in the gifts. Your character voice for a wise old man works well in presenting Caspar’s point of view.

    Reply
    • Jack DesBois

      Thank you, Margaret. St Matthew tells us merely what the gifts were (among the very few Biblical details from the Wise Men’s story), leaving us to wonder: of all possible gifts, why those? That 2,000-year tradition of pondering the gifts and their meaning has been far more valuable to Christendom than the items themselves could ever have been.

      Caspar, the old man, was quite fun to write. In addition to his wisdom, the listener discovers upon meeting him that he is a very unusual monarch – king of his solitary hut in the woods and the woodshed out back. Balthazar (whom the narrative follows primarily, and who often brings my own voice to the poem) does not know what to make of him.

      Reply
      • Mike Bryant

        Jack, I love the lyrics, the poetry, the thoughtfulness…but most of all… you have a tremendous voice.

      • Jack DesBois

        Thanks, Mike! I had to do without my singing voice this Christmas season due to a bout with Covid, but the phlegm has pretty much cleared now, and I’m looking forward to getting my vocal chops back into shape. Churches don’t want to host Western Star performances these days, but I’m planning a house performance for my family once the voice is back to full strength.

        (By the way, I found one of the most effective treatements for my Covid was nebulizing with hydrogen peroxide: http://doctoryourself.com/omns/v17n13.shtml – it really helped keep everything moving in my head and chest, speeding up my recovery.)

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