The Little Mud Sparrows by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

Jewish Legend

I like that old, kind legend
  Not found in Holy Writ,
And wish that John or Matthew
  Had made Bible out of it.

But though it is not Gospel,
  There is no law to hold
The heart from growing better
  That hears the story told:—

How the little Jewish children
  Upon a summer day,
Went down across the meadows
  With the Child Christ to play.

And in the gold-green valley,
  Where low the reed-grass lay,

They made them mock mud-sparrows
  Out of the meadow clay.

So, when these all were fashioned,
  And ranged in rows about,
"Now," said the little Jesus,
  "We'll let the birds fly out."

Then all the happy children
  Did call, and coax, and cry—
Each to his own mud-sparrow:
  "Fly, as I bid you! Fly!"

But earthen were the sparrows,
  And earth they did remain,
Though loud the Jewish children
  Cried out, and cried again.

Except the one bird only
  The little Lord Christ made;
The earth that owned Him Master,
  —His earth heard and obeyed.

Softly He leaned and whispered:
  "Fly up to Heaven! Fly!"
And swift, His little sparrow
  Went soaring to the sky,

And silent, all the children
  Stood, awestruck, looking on,
Till, deep into the heavens,
  The bird of earth had gone.

I like to think, for playmate
  We have the Lord Christ still,
And that still above our weakness
  He works His mighty will,

That all our little playthings
  Of earthen hopes and joys
Shall be, by His commandment,
  Changed into heavenly toys.

Our souls are like the sparrows
  Imprisoned in the clay,
Bless Him who came to give them wings
  Upon a Christmas Day!