Christmas Eve in France

Oh, little Christ, why do you sigh
    As you look down tonight
On breathless France, on bleeding France,
    And all her dreadful plight?
What bows your childish head so low?
    What turns your cheek so white?

Oh, little Christ, why do you moan,
    What is it that you see
In mourning France, in martyred France,
    And her great agony?
Does she recall your own dark day,
    Your own Gethsemane?

Oh, little Christ, why do you weep,
    Why flow your tears so sore
For pleading France, for praying France,
    A suppliant at God’s door?
“God sweetened not my cup,” you say,
    “Shall He for France do more?”

Oh, little Christ, what can this mean,
    Why must this horror be
For fainting France, for faithful France,
    And her sweet chivalry?
“I bled to free all men,” you say
    “France bleeds to keep men free.”

Oh, little, lovely Christ—you smile!
    What guerdon is in store
For gallant France, for glorious France,
    And all her valiant corps?
“Behold I live, and France, like me,
    Shall live for evermore.”

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.