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Carets (^) indicate superscripts.
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A detailed transcriber's note is at the end of the text.
Our American Holidays
Robert Haven Schauffler
A series of anthologies for the use of students and teachers in schools and colleges; consisting of the best verse, plays, stories, addresses, special articles, orations, etc. Applicable to the holidays listed as follows:
CHRISTMAS..........................December 25th DEMOCRACY DAYS.................................... EASTER............................March or April GOOD WILL DAYS.................................... HALLOWE'EN..........................October 31st INDEPENDENCE DAY........................July 4th LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY.................February 12th THE MAGIC OF BOOKS.....................Book Week THE MAGIC OF MUSIC....................Music Week MEMORIAL DAY............................May 30th MOTHER'S DAY................Second Sunday in May PAN-AMERICAN DAY......................April 14th PEACE DAYS........................................ ROOSEVELT DAY.......................October 27th THANKSGIVING...........Last Thursday in November WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY..............February 22nd
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Our American Holidays
Its Origin, Celebration and Significance As Related in Prose and Verse
ROBERT HAVEN SCHAUFFLER
New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1968
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Copyright 1907 by Dodd, Mead & Company
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Is There a Santa Claus?............... F.P. Church O Little Town of Bethlehem............ Phillips Brooks The Glad Evangel...................... Kate Douglas Wiggin The Shepherds......................... William Drummond A Christmas Carol..................... James Russell Lowell A Christmas Hymn...................... Alfred Domett Sons of the Morning................... Reginald Heber God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.......... Dinah Maria Mulock The Christmas Silence................. Margaret Deland A Christmas Lullaby................... John Addington Symonds Hymn for the Nativity................. Edward Thring Masters in this Hall................... Anonymous The Adoration of the Wise Men......... Cecil Frances Alexander The Shepherds in Judea................ Mary Austin Christmas Carol....................... James S. Park Neighbors of the Christ Night......... Nora Archibald Smith Cradle Hymn........................... Isaac Watts An Ode on the Birth of Our Saviour.... Robert Herrick Christmas Song........................ Edmund Hamilton Sears A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour.. Ben Jonson The Shepherd's Song................... Edmund Bolton A Christmas Carol..................... Aubrey de Vere A Christmas Hymn...................... Anon Christmas Day......................... Charles Wesley Christmas............................. Anonymous Christmas............................. Nahum Tate "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night"............. Margaret Deland Colonial Christmases.................. Alice Morse Earle The Angels............................ William Drummond Hymn for Christmas.................... Felicia Hemans New Prince, New Pomp.................. Robert Southwell The Three Kings....................... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Hymn on the Nativity.................. John Milton
Christmas Eve at Mr. Wardle's......... Charles Dickens A Visit from St. Nicholas............. Clement C. Moore A Christmas Piece..................... Fred S. Cozzens Wassailer's Song...................... Robert Southwell Christmas Eve......................... Hamilton Wright Mabie Christmas In The Olden Time........... Walter Scott Sly Santa Claus....................... Mrs. C.S. Stone The Waits............................. Margaret Deland The Knighting of the Sirloin.......... Anonymous The Christmas Goose at the Cratchits'. Charles Dickens God Bless Us Every One................ James Whitcomb Riley Bells Across the Snow................. Frances Ridley Havergal Christmas Bells....................... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Minstrels and Maids................... William Morris Inexhaustibility of the Subject of Christmas................ Leigh Hunt Song of the Holly..................... William Shakespeare Under the Holly-Bough................. Charles Mackay Ceremonies for Christmas.............. Robert Herrick Santa Claus........................... Anonymous The Ceremonies for Christmas Day...... Robert Herrick December.............................. Harriet F. Blodgett The Festival of St. Nicholas.......... Mary Mapes Dodge The Christmas Holly................... Eliza Cook To the Fir-Tree....................... From the German The Mahogany-Tree..................... William Makepeace Thackeray Christmas............................. Washington Irving Church Decking at Christmas........... William Wordsworth So, Now is Come Our Joyful'st Feast... George Wither Fairy Faces........................... Anonymous Merry Christmas....................... Anonymous A Merry Christmas to You.............. Theodore Ledyard Cuyler Christmas Bells....................... Anonymous The Birth of Christ................... Alfred Tennyson The Christmas Carol................... William Wordsworth Christmas at Fezziwig's Warehouse..... Charles Dickens Christmas Bells....................... John Keble
III SIGNIFICANCE AND SPIRIT
A Christmas Carmen.................... John G. Whittier The Spirit Of Christmas............... Charles Dickens On Good Wishes at Christmas........... Friswell A Christmas Song...................... William Cox Bennett Sery.................................. Richard Watson Gilder A Christmas Song...................... Tudor Jenks Christmas............................. Alexander Smith Christmas Carol....................... Phillips Brooks The End of the Play................... William Makepeace Thackeray Christ's Nativity..................... Henry Vaughan Christmas Dreams...................... Christopher North Keeping Christmas..................... Henry Van Dyke Mark Well My Heavy, Doleful Tale...... Anonymous A Christmas Carol..................... Christina G. Rossetti The Glorious Song of Old.............. Edmund H. Sears A Christmas Carol for Children........ Martin Luther On Santa Claus........................ George A. Baker, Jr. A Christmas Carol..................... Josiah Gilbert Holland An Offertory.......................... Mary Mapes Dodge Christmas Song........................ Lydia A.C. Ward A Christmas Carol..................... Christian Burke A Simple Bill of Fare for a Christmas Dinner.............. H.H. A Ballade of Old Loves................ Carolyn Wells Ballade of Christmas Ghosts........... Andrew Lang Hang Up the Baby's Stocking........... [Emily Huntington Miller] The Newest Thing in Christmas Carols.. Anonymous A Christmas Letter from Australia..... Douglas Sladen Christmas............................. Rose Terry Cooke
The Fir Tree.......................... Hans Christian Andersen Little Roger's Night in the Church.... Susan Coolidge Mr. Bluff's Experiences of Holidays... Oliver Bell Bunce Santa Claus at Simpson's Bar.......... Bret Harte
V OLD CAROLS AND EXERCISES
God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen Old Christmas Returned Christmas Carol In Excelsis Gloria The Boar's Head Carol Christmas Carol
A Christmas Insurrection.............. Anne P.L. Field The Night After Christmas............. Anne P.L. Field When the Stars of Morning Sang........ Anne P.L. Field A Prayer at Bethlehem................. Anne P.L. Field The Christmas Fires................... Anne P.L. Field The Mother (A Story).................. Robert Haven Schauffler
The Publishers desire to acknowledge the kindness of Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons; Houghton, Mifflin and Company; Little, Brown and Company; Dodd, Mead and Company; Bobbs-Merrill Company and others, who have granted us permission to reproduce selections from works bearing their copyright.
Christmas is our most important holiday, and its literature is correspondingly rich. Yet until now no adequate bundle of Christmas treasures in poetry and prose has found its way into the library of Santa Claus.
While this book brings to children of all ages, in school and at home, the best lyrics, carols, essays, plays and stories of Christmas, its scope is yet wider. For the Introduction gives a rapid view of the holiday's origin and development, its relation to cognate pagan festivals, the customs and symbols of its observance in different lands, and the significance and spirit of the day. This Introduction endeavors to be as suggestive as possible to parents and teachers who are personally conducted and introduced to the host of writers learned and quaint, human and pedantic, humorous and brilliant and profound, who have dealt technically with this fascinating subject.
It was the habit of him whose birthday we celebrate to take what was good in men and remould it to higher uses. And so it is peculiarly fitting that the anniversary of Christmas, when it was first celebrated in the second century of our era should have taken from heathen mythology and customs the more beautiful parts for its own use. "Christmas," says Dean Stanley, "brings before us the relations of the Christian religion to the religions which went before; for the birth at Bethlehem was itself a link with the past."
The pagan nations of antiquity[A] always had a tendency to worship the sun, under different names, as the giver of light and life. And their festivals in its honor took place near the winter solstice, the shortest day in the year, when the sun in December begins its upward course, thrilling men with the first distant promise of spring. This holiday was called Saturnalia among the Romans and was marked by great merriment and licence which extended even to the slaves. There were feasting and gifts and the houses were hung with evergreens. A more barbarous form of these rejoicings took place among the rude peoples of the north where great blocks of wood blazed in honor of Odin and Thor, and sacrifices of men and cattle were made to them. Mistletoe was cut then from the sacred oaks with a golden sickle by the Prince of the Druids, between whom and the Fire-Worshippers of Persia there was an affinity both in character and customs.
[Footnote A: An account of the early history of Christmas may be found in Chamber's Book of Days.]
The ancient Goths and Saxons called this festival Yule, which is preserved to us in the Scottish word for Christmas and also in the name of the Yule Log. The ancient Teutons celebrated the season by decking a fir tree, for they thought of the sun, riding higher and higher in the heavens, as the spreading and blossoming of a great tree. Thus our own Christmas fir was decked as a symbol of the celestial sun tree. The lights, according to Professor Schwartz, represent the flashes of lightning overhead, the golden apples, nuts and balls symbolize the sun, the moon and the stars, while the little animals hung in the branches betoken sacrifices made in gratitude to the sun god.[B]
[Footnote B: A delightful account of the origin of the Christmas tree may be found in Elise Traut's Christmas in Heart and Home.]
As Christianity replaced paganism, the Christians, in the tolerant spirit of their Master, adopted these beautiful old usages, merely changing their spirit. So that the Lord of Misrule who long presided over the Christmas games of Christian England was the direct descendant of the ruler who was appointed, with considerable prerogatives, to preside over the sports of the Saturnalia. In this connection the narrow Puritan author of the "Histrio-Mastix" laments: "If we compare our Bacchanalian Christmasses with these Saturnalia, we shall find such a near affinitye between them, both in regard to time and in manner of solemnizing, that we must needs conclude the one to be but the very issue of the other."
"Merrie old England," writes Walsh,[C] "was the soil in which Merrie Christmas took its firmest root." Even in Anglo-Saxon days we hear of Alfred holding high revelry in December, 878, so that he allowed the Danes to surprise him, cut his army to pieces and send him a fugitive. The court revelries increased in splendor after the conquest. Christmas, it must be remembered was not then a single day of sport. It had the preliminary novena which began December 16, and it ended on January 6, or Twelfth Night. All this period was devoted to holiday making.
[Footnote C: Curiosities of Popular Customs.]
It was a democratic festival. All classes mixed in its merry-makings. Hospitality was universal. An English country gentleman of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries held open house. With daybreak on Christmas morning the tenants and neighbors thronged into the hall. The ale was broached. Blackjacks and Cheshire cheese, with toast and sugar and nutmeg, went plentifully round. The Hackin, or great sausage, must be boiled at daybreak, and if it failed to be ready two young men took the cook by the arm and ran her around the market-place till she was ashamed of her laziness.
With the rise of Puritanism the very existence of Christmas was threatened. Even the harmless good cheer of that season was looked upon as pagan, or, what was worse, Popish. 'Into what a stupendous height of more than pagan impiety,' cried Prynne (...) 'have we not now degenerated!' Prynne's rhetoric, it will be seen, is not without an unconscious charm of humor. He complained that the England of his day could not celebrate Christmas or any other festival 'without drinking, roaring, healthing, dicing, carding, dancing, masques and stage-plays (...) which Turkes and Infidels would abhor to practise.'
Puritanism brought over with it in the Mayflower the anti-Christmas feeling to New England. So early as 1621 Governor Bradford was called upon to administer a rebuke to 'certain lusty yonge men' who had just come over in the little ship Fortune. 'On ye day called Christmas day,' says William Bradford, 'ye Gov^r caled them out to worke (as was used), but ye most of this new company excused themselves and said it went against their consciences to worke on ye day. So ye Gov^r tould them that if they made it matter of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed. So he led away ye rest, and left them; but when they came home at noone from their worke, he found them in ye streete at play, openly: some pitching ye barr, and some at stoole-ball and such like sports. So he went to them and tooke away their implements, and tould them that it was against his conscience that they should play and others worke. If they made ye keeping of it matter of devotion, let them kepe their houses, but ther should be no gameing or revelling in ye streets. Since which time nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly.'
In England the feeling culminated in 1643, when the Roundhead Parliament abolished the observance of saints' days and "the three grand festivals" of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, "any law, statute, custom, constitution, or canon to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding." The king protested. But he was answered. In London, nevertheless, there was an alarming disposition to observe Christmas. The mob attacked those who by opening their shops flouted the holiday. In several counties the disorder was threatening. But Parliament adopted strong measures, and during the twelve years in which the great festivals were discountenanced there was no further tumult, and the observance of Christmas as a general holiday ceased.
The General Court of Massachusetts followed the example of the English Parliament in 1659 when it enacted that 'anybody who is found observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting, or any other way, any such day as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings.'
The restoration of English royalty brought about the restoration of the English Christmas. It was not till 1681, however, that Massachusetts repealed the ordinance of 1659. But the repeal was bitter to old Puritanism, which kept up an ever attenuating protest even down to the early part of the present century.
There are many superstitions connected with the coming of Christmas itself. The bees are said to sing, the cattle to kneel, in honor of the manger, and the sheep to go in procession in commemoration of the visit of the angel to the shepherds.
Howison in his "Sketches of Upper Canada" relates that on one moonlit Christmas Eve he saw an Indian creeping cautiously through the woods. In response to an inquiry, he said. 'Me watch to see deer kneel. Christmas night all deer kneel and look up to Great Spirit.'
In the German Alps it is believed that the cattle have the gift of language on Christmas Eve. But it is a sin to attempt to play the eavesdropper upon them. An Alpine story is told of a farmer's servant who did not believe that the cattle could speak, and, to make sure, he hid in his master's stable on Christmas Eve and listened. When the clock struck twelve he was surprised at what he heard. 'We shall have hard work to do this day week,' said one horse. 'Yes; the farmer's servant is heavy,' answered the other horse. 'And the way to the churchyard is long and steep,' said the first. The servant was buried that day week.
There is a beautiful superstition about the cock that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Marcellus, in Hamlet—
"Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, The bird of dawning singeth all night long: And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad; The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm; So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."
No other holiday has so rich an heritage of old customs and observances as Christmas. The Yule Log has from time immemorial been haled to the open fire-place on Christmas Eve, and lighted with the embers of its predecessor to sanctify the roof-tree and protect it against those evil spirits over whom the season is in everyway a triumph. Then the wassail bowl full of swimming roasted apples, goes its merry round. Then the gift-shadowing Christmas tree sheds its divine brilliance down the path of the coming year; or stockings are hung for Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) to fill during the night. Then the mistletoe becomes a precarious shelter for maids, and the Waits—descendants of the minstrels of old—go through the snow from door to door, singing their mellow old carols, while masquerades and the merry Christmas game of Snapdragon are not forgotten.[D]
[Footnote D: An exhaustive study of the history and customs of Christmas has been made by W.F. Dawson in "Christmas and its Associations."]
Even the Christmas dinner has its special observances. In many an English hall the stately custom still survives of bearing in a boar's head to inaugurate the meal, as a reminder of the student of Queens College, Oxford, who, attacked by a boar on Christmas day, choked him with a copy of Aristotle and took his head back for dinner. The mince pie, sacred to the occasion, is supposed to commemorate in its mixture of oriental ingredients the offerings made by the wise men of the East. As for turkey and plum pudding, they have a deep significance, but it is clearer to the palate than to the brain.
Elise Traut relates the legend that on every Christmas eve the little Christ-child wanders all over the world bearing on its shoulders a bundle of evergreens. Through city streets and country lanes, up and down hill, to proudest castle and lowliest hovel, through cold and storm and sleet and ice, this holy child travels, to be welcomed or rejected at the doors at which he pleads for succor. Those who would invite him and long for his coming set a lighted candle in the window to guide him on his way hither. They also believe that he comes to them in the guise of any alms-craving, wandering person who knocks humbly at their doors for sustenance, thus testing their benevolence. In many places the aid rendered the beggar is looked upon as hospitality shown to Christ.
This legend embodies the true Christmas spirit which realizes, with a rush of love to the heart, the divinity in every one of "the least of these" our brethren. Selfishness is rebuked, the feeling of universal brotherhood is fostered, while the length of this holiday season by encouraging the reunion of families and of friends, provides a wonderful rallying place for early affections. A wholesome and joyous current of religious feeling flows through the entire season to temper its extravagance and regulate its mirth.
"Under the sanctions of religion," writes Hervey,[E] "the covenants of the heart are renewed.... The lovers of Earth seem to have met together."
[Footnote E: For a beautiful and extended discussion of the significance of the day, see Hervey's "The Book of Christmas."]
Christmas is the birthday of one whose chief contribution to the human heart and mind was his message of boundless, universal love, He brought to the world the greatest thing in the world and that is why the season of his birth has won such an intimate place in our hearts and why its jubilant bells find this echo there:
"Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow; The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.
"Ring out the grief that saps the mind, For those that here we see no more; Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind.
"Ring out a slowly dying cause, And ancient forms of party strife; Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws.
"Ring out the want, the care, the sin, The faithless coldness of the times; Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes, But ring the fuller minstrel in.
"Ring out false pride in place and blood, The civic slander and the spite; Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love of good.
"Ring out old shapes of foul disease; Ring out the narrowing lust of gold; Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace.
"Ring in the valiant man and free, The larger heart, the kindlier hand; Ring out the darkness of the land, Ring in the Christ that is to be."
IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS?
The following, reprinted from the editorial page of the New York Sun, was written by the late Mr. Frank P. Church:
We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says "If you see it in The Sun it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? Virginia O'Hanlon.
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
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O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by; Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee to-night.
For Christ is born of Mary, And, gathered all above, While mortals sleep, the angels keep Their watch of wondering love. O morning stars, together Proclaim the holy birth! And praises sing to God the King, And peace to men on earth. How silently, how silently, The wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming, But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him still, The dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, Be born in us to-day. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; Oh, come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!
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THE GLAD EVANGEL
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
When the Child of Nazareth was born, the sun, according to the Bosnian legend, "leaped in the heavens, and the stars around it danced. A peace came over mountain and forest. Even the rotten stump stood straight and healthy on the green hill-side. The grass was beflowered with open blossoms, incense sweet as myrrh pervaded upland and forest, birds sang on the mountain top, and all gave thanks to the great God."
It is naught but an old folk-tale, but it has truth hidden at its heart, for a strange, subtle force, a spirit of genial good-will, a new-born kindness, seem to animate child and man alike when the world pays its tribute to the "heaven-sent youngling," as the poet Drummond calls the infant Christ.
When the Three Wise Men rode from the East into the West on that "first, best Christmas night," they bore on their saddle-bows three caskets filled with gold and frankincense and myrrh, to be laid at the feet of the manger-cradled babe of Bethlehem. Beginning with this old, old journey, the spirit of giving crept into the world's heart. As the Magi came bearing gifts, so do we also; gifts that relieve want, gifts that are sweet and fragrant with friendship, gifts that breathe love, gifts that mean service, gifts inspired still by the star that shone over the City of David nearly two thousand years ago.
Then hang the green coronet of the Christmas-tree with glittering baubles and jewels of flame; heap offerings on its emerald branches; bring the Yule log to the firing; deck the house with holly and mistletoe,
"And all the bells on earth shall ring On Christmas day in the morning."
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WILLIAM DRUMMOND, OF HAWTHORNDEN
O than the fairest day, thrice fairer night! Night to blest days in which a sun doth rise Of which that golden eye which clears the skies Is but a sparkling ray, a shadow-light! And blessed ye, in silly pastor's sight, Mild creatures, in whose warm crib now lies That heaven-sent youngling, holy-maid-born wight, Midst, end, beginning of our prophecies!
Blest cottage that hath flowers in winter spread, Though withered—blessed grass that hath the grace To deck and be a carpet to that place! Thus sang, unto the sounds of oaten reed, Before the Babe, the shepherds bowed on knees; And springs ran nectar, honey dropped from trees.
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A CHRISTMAS CAROL
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
"What means this glory round our feet," The Magi mused, "more bright than morn?" And voices chanted clear and sweet, "To-day the Prince of Peace is born!"
"What means that star," the Shepherds said, "That brightens through the rocky glen?" And angels, answering overhead, Sang, "Peace on earth, good-will to men!"
'Tis eighteen hundred years and more Since those sweet oracles were dumb; We wait for Him, like them of yore; Alas, He seems so slow to come!
But it was said, in words of gold, No time or sorrow e'er shall dim, That little children might be bold In perfect trust to come to Him.
All round about our feet shall shine A light like that the wise men saw, If we our loving wills incline To that sweet Life which is the Law.
So shall we learn to understand The simple faith of shepherds then, And, clasping kindly hand in hand, Sing, "Peace on earth, good-will to men!"
But they who do their souls no wrong, But keep at eve the faith of morn, Shall daily hear the angel-song, "To-day the Prince of Peace is born!"
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A CHRISTMAS HYMN
It was the calm and silent night! Seven hundred years and fifty-three Had Rome been growing up to might, And now was Queen of land and sea. No sound was heard of clashing wars; Peace brooded o'er the hush'd domain; Apollo, Pallas, Jove and Mars, Held undisturb'd their ancient reign, In the solemn midnight Centuries ago.
'T was in the calm and silent night! The senator of haughty Rome Impatient urged his chariot's flight, From lordly revel rolling home. Triumphal arches gleaming swell His breast with thoughts of boundless sway; What reck'd the Roman what befell A paltry province far away, In the solemn midnight Centuries ago!
Within that province far away Went plodding home a weary boor: A streak of light before him lay, Fall'n through a half-shut stable door Across his path. He pass'd—for nought Told what was going on within; How keen the stars! his only thought; The air how calm and cold and thin, In the solemn midnight Centuries ago!
O strange indifference!—low and high Drows'd over common joys and cares: The earth was still—but knew not why; The world was listening—unawares. How calm a moment may precede One that shall thrill the world for ever! To that still moment none would heed, Man's doom was link'd, no more to sever, In the solemn midnight Centuries ago.
It is the calm and solemn night A thousand bells ring out, and throw Their joyous peals abroad, and smite The darkness, charm'd and holy now. The night that erst no name had worn, To it a happy name is given; For in that stable lay new-born The peaceful Prince of Earth and Heaven, In the solemn midnight Centuries ago.
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BRIGHTEST AND BEST OF THE SONS OF THE MORNING
Brightest and best of the Sons of the morning! Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid! Star of the East, the horizon adorning, Guide where our Infant Redeemer is laid!
Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining, Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall; Angels adore Him in slumber reclining, Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!
Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion, Odors of Edom and offerings divine? Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean, Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?
Vainly we offer each ample oblation; Vainly with gifts would His favor secure: Richer by far is the heart's adoration; Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
Brightest and best of the Sons of the morning! Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid! Star of the East, the horizon adorning, Guide where our Infant Redeemer is laid!
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GOD REST YE, MERRY GENTLEMEN
DINAH MARIA MULOCK
God rest ye, merry gentlemen; let nothing you dismay, For Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day. The dawn rose red o'er Bethlehem, the stars shone through the gray, When Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.
God rest ye, little children; let nothing you affright, For Jesus Christ, your Saviour, was born this happy night; Along the hills of Galilee the white flocks sleeping lay, When Christ, the child of Nazareth, was born on Christmas-day.
God rest ye, all good Christians; upon this blessed morn The Lord of all good Christians was of a woman born: Now all your sorrows He doth heal, your sins He takes away; For Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.
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THE CHRISTMAS SILENCE
Hushed are the pigeons cooing low On dusty rafters of the loft; And mild-eyed oxen, breathing soft, Sleep on the fragrant hay below.
Dim shadows in the corner hide; The glimmering lantern's rays are shed Where one young lamb just lifts his head, Then huddles 'gainst his mother's side.
Strange silence tingles in the air; Through the half-open door a bar Of light from one low-hanging star Touches a baby's radiant hair.
No sound: the mother, kneeling, lays Her cheek against the little face. Oh human love! Oh heavenly grace! 'Tis yet in silence that she prays!
Ages of silence end to-night; Then to the long-expectant earth Glad angels come to greet His birth In burst of music, love, and light!
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A CHRISTMAS LULLABY
JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS
Sleep, baby, sleep! The Mother sings: Heaven's angels kneel and fold their wings. Sleep, baby, sleep!
With swathes of scented hay Thy bed By Mary's hand at eve was spread. Sleep, baby, sleep!
At midnight came the shepherds, they Whom seraphs wakened by the way. Sleep, baby, sleep!
And three kings from the East afar, Ere dawn came, guided by the star. Sleep, baby, sleep!
They brought Thee gifts of gold and gems, Pure orient pearls, rich diadems. Sleep, baby, sleep!
Thou who liest slumbering there, Art King of Kings, earth, ocean, air. Sleep, baby, sleep!
Sleep, baby, sleep! The shepherds sing: Through heaven, through earth, hosannas ring. Sleep, baby, sleep!
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HYMN FOR THE NATIVITY
Happy night and happy silence downward softly stealing, Softly stealing over land and sea, Stars from golden censors swing a silent eager feeling Down on Judah, down on Galilee; And all the wistful air, and earth, and sky, Listened, listened for the gladness of a cry.
Holy night, a sudden flash of light its way is winging: Angels, angels, all above, around; Hark, the angel voices, hark, the angel voices singing; And the sheep are lying on the ground. Lo, all the wistful air, and earth, and sky, Listen, listen to the gladness of the cry.
Happy night at Bethlehem; soft little hands are feeling, Feeling in the manger with the kine: Little hands, and eyelids closed in sleep, while angels kneeling, Mary mother, hymn the Babe Divine. Lo, all the wistful air, and earth, and sky, Listen, listen to the gladness of the cry.
Wide, as if the light were music, flashes adoration: "Glory be to God, nor ever cease," All the silence thrills, and speeds the message of salvation: "Peace on earth, good-will to men of peace." Lo, all the wistful air, and earth, and sky, Listen, listen to the gladness of the cry.
Holy night, thy solemn silence evermore enfoldeth Angels songs and peace from God on high: Holy night, thy watcher still with faithful eye beholdeth Wings that wave, and angel glory nigh, Lo, hushed is strife in air, and earth, and sky, Still thy watchers hear the gladness of the cry.
Praise Him, ye who watch the night, the silent night of ages: Praise Him, shepherds, praise the Holy Child; Praise Him, ye who hear the light, O praise Him, all ye sages; Praise Him, children, praise Him meek and mild. Lo, peace on Earth, glory to God on high, Listen, listen to the gladness of the cry.
* * * * *
MASTERS IN THIS HALL
"To Bethlem did they go, the shepherds three; To Bethlem did they go to see whe'r it were so or no, Whether Christ were born or no To set men free."
Masters, in this hall, Hear ye news to-day Brought over sea, And ever I you pray.
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Sing we clear! Holpen are all folk on earth, Born is God's Son so dear.
Going over the hills, Through the milk-white snow, Heard I ewes bleat While the wind did blow. Nowell, &c.
Shepherds many an one Sat among the sheep; No man spake more word Than they had been asleep. Nowell, &c.
Quoth I 'Fellows mine, Why this guise sit ye? Making but dull cheer, Shepherds though ye be? Nowell, &c.
'Shepherds should of right Leap and dance and sing; Thus to see ye sit Is a right strange thing.' Nowell, &c.
Quoth these fellows then 'To Bethlem town we go, To see a Mighty Lord Lie in manger low.' Nowell, &c.
'How name ye this Lord, Shepherds?' then said I. 'Very God' they said, 'Come from Heaven high.' Nowell, &c. Then to Bethlem town We went two and two, And in a sorry place Heard the oxen low. Nowell, &c.
Therein did we see A sweet and goodly May, And a fair old man; Upon the straw she lay. Nowell, &c.
And a little CHILD On her arm had she; 'Wot ye who this is?' Said the hinds to me. Nowell, &c.
Ox and ass him know, Kneeling on their knee: Wondrous joy had I This little BABE to see. Nowell, &c.
This is CHRIST the Lord, Masters, be ye glad! Christmas is come in, And no folk should be sad. Nowell, &c.
* * * * *
THE ADORATION OF THE WISE MEN
CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER
Saw you never in the twilight, When the sun had left the skies, Up in heaven the clear stars shining, Through the gloom like silver eyes? So of old the wise men watching, Saw a little stranger star, And they knew the King was given, And they follow'd it from far.
Heard you never of the story, How they cross'd the desert wild, Journey'd on by plain and mountain, Till they found the Holy Child? How they open'd all their treasure, Kneeling to that Infant King, Gave the gold and fragrant incense, Gave the myrrh in offering?
Know ye not that lowly Baby Was the bright and morning star, He who came to light the Gentiles, And the darken'd isles afar? And we too may seek his cradle, There our heart's best treasures bring, Love, and Faith, and true devotion, For our Saviour, God, and King.
* * * * *
THE SHEPHERDS IN JUDEA
Oh, the Shepherds in Judea, They are pacing to and fro, For the air grows chill at twilight And the weanling lambs are slow!
Leave, O lambs, the dripping sedges, quit the bramble and the brier, Leave the fields of barley stubble, for we light the watching fire; Twinkling fires across the twilight, and a bitter watch to keep, Lest the prowlers come a-thieving where the flocks unguarded sleep.
Oh, the Shepherds in Judea, They are singing soft and low— Song the blessed angels taught them All the centuries ago!
There was never roof to hide them, there were never walls to bind; Stark they lie beneath the star-beams, whom the blessed angels find, With the huddled flocks upstarting, wondering if they hear aright, While the Kings come riding, riding, solemn shadows in the night.
Oh, the Shepherds in Judea, They are thinking, as they go, Of the light that broke their watching On the hillside in the snow!—
Scattered snow along the hillside, white as springtime fleeces are, With the whiter wings above them and the glory-streaming star— Guiding-star across the housetops; never fear the Shepherds felt Till they found the Babe in manger where the kindly cattle knelt.
Oh, the Shepherds in Judea!— Do you think the Shepherds know How the whole round earth is brightened In the ruddy Christmas glow?
How the sighs are lost in laughter, and the laughter brings the tears, As the thoughts of men go seeking back across the darkling years Till they find the wayside stable that the star-led Wise Men found, With the Shepherds, mute, adoring, and the glory shining round!
* * * * *
JAMES S. PARK
So crowded was the little town On the first Christmas day, Tired Mary Mother laid her down To rest upon the hay. (Ah, would my door might have been thrown Wide open on her way!)
But when the Holy Babe was born In the deep hush of night, It seemed as if a Sabbath morn Had come with sacred light. Child Jesus made the place forlorn With his own beauty bright.
The manger rough was all his rest; The cattle, having fed, Stood silent by, or closer pressed, And gravely wondered. (Ah, Lord, if only that my breast Had cradled Thee instead!)
* * * * *
NEIGHBORS OF THE CHRIST NIGHT
NORA ARCHIBALD SMITH
Deep in the shelter of the cave, The ass with drooping head Stood weary in the shadow, where His master's hand had led. About the manger oxen lay, Bending a wide-eyed gaze Upon the little new-born Babe, Half worship, half amaze. High in the roof the doves were set, And cooed there, soft and mild, Yet not so sweet as, in the hay, The Mother to her Child. The gentle cows breathed fragrant breath To keep Babe Jesus warm, While loud and clear, o'er hill and dale, The cocks crowed, "Christ is born!" Out in the fields, beneath the stars, The young lambs sleeping lay, And dreamed that in the manger slept Another white as they.
- - - - -
These were Thy neighbors, Christmas Child; To Thee their love was given, For in Thy baby face there shone The wonder-light of Heaven.
* * * * *
Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber; Holy angels guard thy bed; Heavenly blessings without number Gently falling on thy head.
Sleep, my babe, thy food and raiment, House and home, thy friends provide; All without thy care, or payment, All thy wants are well supplied.
How much better thou'rt attended Than the Son of God could be, When from heaven He descended, And became a child like thee!
Soft and easy is thy cradle; Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay, When His birthplace was a stable, And His softest bed was hay.
See the kindly shepherds round him, Telling wonders from the sky! When they sought Him, there they found Him, With his Virgin-Mother by.
See the lovely babe a-dressing; Lovely infant, how He smiled! When He wept, the mother's blessing Soothed and hushed the holy child.
Lo, He slumbers in His manger, Where the honest oxen fed; —Peace, my darling! here's no danger! Here's no ox a-near thy bed!
Mayst thou live to know and fear Him, Trust and love Him all thy days; Then go dwell forever near Him, See His face, and sing His praise!
I could give thee thousand kisses, Hoping what I most desire; Not a mother's fondest wishes Can to greater joys aspire.
* * * * *
AN ODE ON THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOUR
In numbers, and but these few, I sing thy birth, O Jesu! Thou pretty baby, born here With sup'rabundant scorn here; Who for thy princely port here, Hadst for thy place Of birth, a base Out-stable for thy court here.
Instead of neat enclosures Of interwoven osiers, Instead of fragrant posies Of daffodils and roses, Thy cradle, kingly stranger, As gospel tells, Was nothing else But here a homely manger.
But we with silks, not crewels, With sundry precious jewels, And lily work will dress thee, And, as we dispossess thee Of clouts, we'll make a chamber, Sweet babe, for thee Of ivory, And plaster'd round with amber.
* * * * *
EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS
Calm on the listening ear of night Come heaven's melodious strains, Where wild Judea stretches far Her silver-mantled plains; Celestial choirs from courts above Shed sacred glories there; And angels with their sparkling lyres Make music on the air.
The answering hills of Palestine Send back the glad reply, And greet from all their holy heights The day-spring from on high: O'er the blue depths of Galilee There comes a holier calm, And Sharon waves, in solemn praise, Her silent groves of palm.
"Glory to God!" The lofty strain The realm of ether fills: How sweeps the song of solemn joy O'er Judah's sacred hills! "Glory to God!" The sounding skies Loud with their anthems ring; "Peace on the earth; good-will to men, From heaven's eternal King!"
Light on thy hills, Jerusalem! The Saviour now is born: More bright on Bethlehem's joyous plains Breaks the first Christmas morn; And brighter on Moriah's brow, Crowned with her temple-spires, Which first proclaim the new-born light, Clothed with its Orient fires.
This day shall Christian lips be mute, And Christian hearts be cold? Oh, catch the anthem that from heaven O'er Judah's mountains rolled! When nightly burst from seraph-harps The high and solemn lay,— "Glory to God! on earth be peace; Salvation comes to-day!"
* * * * *
A HYMN ON THE NATIVITY OF MY SAVIOUR
I sing the birth was born to-night The author both of life and light; The angels so did sound it. And like the ravished shepherds said, Who saw the light, and were afraid, Yet searched, and true they found it.
The Son of God, th' eternal king, That did us all salvation bring, And freed the soul from danger; He whom the whole world could not take, The Word, which heaven and earth did make, Was now laid in a manger.
The Father's wisdom willed it so, The Son's obedience knew no No, Both wills were in one stature; And as that wisdom had decreed, The Word was now made flesh indeed, And took on him our nature.
What comfort by him do we win, Who made himself the price of sin, To make us heirs of glory! To see this babe all innocence; A martyr born in our defence: Can man forget the story?
* * * * *
THE SHEPHERD'S SONG
Sweet music, sweeter far Than any song is sweet: Sweet music, heavenly rare, Mine ears, O peers, doth greet. You gentle flocks, whose fleeces pearled with dew, Resemble heaven, whom golden drops make bright, Listen, O listen, now, O not to you Our pipes make sport to shorten weary night: But voices most divine Make blissful harmony: Voices that seem to shine, For what else clears the sky? Tunes can we hear, but not the singers see, The tunes divine, and so the singers be.
Lo, how the firmament Within an azure fold The flock of stars hath pent, That we might them behold, Yet from their beams proceedeth not this light, Nor can their crystals such reflection give. What then doth make the element so bright? The heavens are come down upon earth to live But hearken to the song, Glory to glory's King, And peace all men among, These quiristers do sing. Angels they are, as also (shepherds) He Whom in our fear we do admire to see.
Let not amazement blind Your souls, said he, annoy: To you and all mankind My message bringeth joy. For lo! the world's great Shepherd now is born, A blessed Babe, an Infant full of power: After long night uprisen is the morn, Renowning Bethlem in the Saviour. Sprung is the perfect day, By prophets seen afar: Sprung is the mirthful May, Which winter cannot mar. In David's city doth this Sun appear Clouded in flesh, yet, shepherds, sit we here!
* * * * *
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
AUBREY DE VERE
They leave the land of gems and gold, The shining portals of the East; For Him, the woman's Seed foretold, They leave the revel and the feast.
To earth their sceptres they have cast, And crowns by kings ancestral worn; They track the lonely Syrian waste; They kneel before the Babe new born.
O happy eyes that saw Him first; O happy lips that kissed His feet: Earth slakes at last her ancient thirst; With Eden's joy her pulses beat.
True kings are those who thus forsake Their kingdoms for the Eternal King; Serpent, her foot is on thy neck; Herod, thou writhest, but canst not sting.
He, He is King, and He alone Who lifts that infant hand to bless; Who makes His mother's knee His throne, Yet rules the starry wilderness.
* * * * *
A CHRISTMAS HYMN
Written in the Chapel of the Manger, in the Convent Church of Bethlehem, Palestine:
In the fields where, long ago, Dropping tears, amid the leaves, Ruth's young feet went to and fro, Binding up the scattered sheaves, In the field that heard the voice Of Judea's shepherd King, Still the gleaners may rejoice, Still the reapers shout and sing.
For each mount and vale and plain Felt the touch of holier feet. Then the gleaners of the grain Heard, in voices full and sweet, "Peace on earth, good will to men," Ring from angel lips afar, While, o'er every glade and glen, Broke the light of Bethlehem's star.
Star of hope to souls in night, Star of peace above our strife, Guiding, where the gates of death Ope to fields of endless life. Wanderer from the nightly throng Which the eastern heavens gem; Guided, by an angel's song, To the Babe of Bethlehem.
Not Judea's hills alone Have earth's weary gleaners trod, Not to heirs of David's throne Is it given to "reign with God." But where'er on His green earth Heavenly faith and longing are, Heavenly hope and life have birth, 'Neath the smile of Bethlehem's star.
In each lowly heart or home, By each love-watched cradle-bed, Where we rest, or where we roam, Still its changeless light is shed. In its beams each quickened heart, Howe'er saddened or denied, Keeps one little place apart For the Hebrew mother's Child.
And that inner temple fair May be holier ground than this, Hallowed by the pilgrim's prayer, Warmed by many a pilgrim's kiss. In its shadow still and dim, Where our holiest longings are, Rings forever Bethlehem's hymn, Shines forever Bethlehem's star.
* * * * *
Hark! the herald angels sing Glory to the new-born King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies, With the angelic host proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild, he lays his glory by; Born, that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
* * * * *
Once in Royal David's city Stood a lowly cattle shed, Where a mother laid her baby In a manger for His bed. Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ that little child.
He came down to earth from Heaven, Who is God and Lord of all. And his shelter was a stable, And his cradle was a stall. With the poor and mean and lowly, Lived on earth our Saviour Holy.
And our eyes at last shall see Him Through His own redeeming love, For that child so dear and gentle Is our Lord in Heaven above; And He leads His children on To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor, lowly stable, With the oxen standing by, We shall see Him; but in Heaven, Set at God's right hand on high, When, like stars, His children crowned All in white, shall wait around.
* * * * *
While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night, All seated on the ground, The angel of the Lord came down, And glory shone around.
"Fear not," said he (for mighty dread Had seized their troubled mind); "Glad tidings of great joy I bring To you and all mankind.
"To you, in David's town, this day Is born of David's line The Saviour who is Christ the Lord; And this shall be the sign:
"The heavenly Babe you there shall find To human view display'd, All meanly wrapt in swathing bands, And in a manger laid."
Thus spake the Seraph; and forthwith Appear'd a shining throng Of angels, praising God, and thus Address'd their joyful song:
"All glory be to God on high, And to the earth be peace; Good-will henceforth from heaven to men Begin, and never cease!"
* * * * *
"WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT"
Like small curled feathers, white and soft, The little clouds went by, Across the moon, and past the stars, And down the western sky: In upland pastures, where the grass With frosted dew was white, Like snowy clouds the young sheep lay, That first, best Christmas night.
The shepherds slept; and, glimmering faint, With twist of thin, blue smoke, Only their fire's crackling flames The tender silence broke— Save when a young lamb raised his head, Or, when the night wind blew, A nesting bird would softly stir, Where dusky olives grew—
With finger on her solemn lip, Night hushed the shadowy earth, And only stars and angels saw The little Saviour's birth; Then came such flash of silver light Across the bending skies, The wondering shepherds woke, and hid Their frightened, dazzled eyes!
And all their gentle sleepy flock Looked up, then slept again, Nor knew the light that dimmed the stars Brought endless Peace to men— Nor even heard the gracious words That down the ages ring— The Christ is born! the Lord has come, Good-will on earth to bring!
Then o'er the moonlit, misty fields, Dumb with the world's great joy, The shepherds sought the white-walled town, Where lay the baby boy— And oh, the gladness of the world, The glory of the skies, Because the longed-for Christ looked up In Mary's happy eyes!
* * * * *
ALICE MORSE EARLE
[From "Customs and Fashions in Old New England."]
The first century of colonial life saw few set times and days for pleasure. The holy days of the English Church were as a stench to the Puritan nostrils, and their public celebration was at once rigidly forbidden by the laws of New England. New holidays were not quickly evolved, and the sober gatherings for matters of Church and State for a time took their place. The hatred of "wanton Bacchanallian Christmasses" spent throughout England, as Cotton said, in "revelling, dicing, carding, masking, mumming, consumed in compotations, in interludes, in excess of wine, in mad mirth," was the natural reaction of intelligent and thoughtful minds against the excesses of a festival which had ceased to be a Christian holiday, but was dominated by a lord of misrule who did not hesitate to invade the churches in time of service, in his noisy revels and sports. English Churchmen long ago revolted also against such Christmas observance.
Of the first Pilgrim Christmas we know but little, save that it was spent, as was many a later one, in work....
By 1659 the Puritans had grown to hate Christmas more and more; it was, to use Shakespeare's words, "the bug that feared them all." The very name smacked to them of incense, stole, and monkish jargon; any person who observed it as a holiday by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way was to pay five shillings fine, so desirous were they to "beate down every sprout of Episcopacie." Judge Sewall watched jealously the feeling of the people with regard to Christmas, and noted with pleasure on each succeeding year the continuance of common traffic throughout the day. Such entries as this show his attitude: "Dec. 25, 1685. Carts come to town and shops open as usual. Some somehow observe the day, but are vexed I believe that the Body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet to compel them to keep it." When the Church of England established Christmas services in Boston a few years later, we find the Judge waging hopeless war against Governor Belcher over it, and hear him praising his son for not going with other boy friends to hear the novel and attractive services. He says: "I dehort mine from Christmas keeping and charge them to forbear."
Christmas could not be regarded till this century as a New England holiday, though in certain localities, such as old Narragansett—an opulent community which was settled by Episcopalians—two weeks of Christmas visiting and feasting were entered into with zest by both planters and slaves for many years previous to the revolution.
* * * * *
Run, shepherds, run where Bethlehem blest appears. We bring the best of news; be not dismayed: A Saviour there is born more old than years, Amidst heaven's rolling height this earth who stayed.
In a poor cottage inned, a virgin maid, A weakling did him bear, who all upbears; There is he poorly swaddled, in manger laid, To whom too narrow swaddlings are our spheres: Run, shepherds, run, and solemnize his birth.
This is that night—no, day, grown great with bliss, In which the power of Satan broken is: In heaven be glory, peace unto the earth! Thus singing, through the air the angels swarm, And cope of stars re-echoed the same.
Or say, if this new Birth of ours Sleeps, laid within some ark of flowers, Spangled with dew-light; thou canst clear All doubts, and manifest the where.
Declare to us, bright star, if we shall seek Him in the morning's blushing cheek, Or search the beds of spices through, To find him out?
Star.—No, this ye need not do; But only come and see Him rest, A princely babe, in's mother's breast.
* * * * *
HYMN FOR CHRISTMAS
Oh! lovely voices of the sky Which hymned the Saviour's birth, Are ye not singing still on high, Ye that sang, "Peace on earth"? To us yet speak the strains Wherewith, in time gone by, Ye blessed the Syrian swains, Oh! voices of the sky!
Oh! clear and shining light, whose beams That hour Heaven's glory shed, Around the palms, and o'er the streams, And on the shepherd's head. Be near, through life and death, As in that holiest night Of hope, and joy, and faith— Oh! clear and shining light!
* * * * *
NEW PRINCE, NEW POMP
Behold a simple, tender Babe, In freezing winter night, In homely manger trembling lies; Alas! a piteous sight.
The inns are full; no man will yield This little Pilgrim bed; But forced he is with silly beasts In crib to shroud his head.
Despise him not for lying there; First what he is inquire: An Orient pearl is often found In depth of dirty mire.
Weigh not his crib, his wooden dish, Nor beasts that by him feed; Weigh not his mother's poor attire, Nor Joseph's simple weed.
This stable is a Prince's court, The crib his chair of state; The beasts are parcel of his pomp, The wooden dish his plate.
The persons in that poor attire His royal liveries wear; The Prince himself is come from heaven: This pomp is praised there.
With joy approach, O Christian wight! Do homage to thy King; And highly praise this humble pomp, Which he from heaven doth bring.
* * * * *
THE THREE KINGS
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Three Kings came riding from far away, Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar; Three Wise Men out of the East were they, And they traveled by night and they slept by day, For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.
The star was so beautiful, large and clear, That all the other stars of the sky Became a white mist in the atmosphere; And by this they knew that the coming was near Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.
Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows, Three caskets of gold with golden keys; Their robes were of crimson silk, with rows Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows, Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.
And so the Three Kings rode into the West, Through the dusk of night over hill and dell, And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast, And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest, With the people they met at some wayside well.
"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar, "Good people, I pray you, tell us the news; For we in the East have seen his star, And have ridden fast, and have ridden far, To find and worship the King of the Jews."
And the people answered, "You ask in vain; We know of no king but Herod the Great!" They thought the Wise Men were men insane, As they spurred their horses across the plain Like riders in haste who cannot wait.
And when they came to Jerusalem, Herod the Great, who had heard this thing, Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them; And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem, And bring me tidings of this new king."
So they rode away, and the star stood still, The only one in the gray of morn; Yes, it stopped, it stood still of its own free will, Right over Bethlehem on the hill, The city of David where Christ was born.
And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard, Through the silent street, till their horses turned And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard; But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred, And only a light in the stable burned.
And cradled there in the scented hay, In the air made sweet by the breath of kine, The little child in the manger lay, The Child that would be King one day Of a kingdom not human, but divine.
His mother, Mary of Nazareth, Sat watching beside his place of rest, Watching the even flow of his breath, For the joy of life and the terror of death Were mingled together in her breast.
They laid their offerings at his feet: The gold was their tribute to a King; The frankincense, with its odor sweet, Was for the Priest, the Paraclete; The myrrh for the body's burying.
And the mother wondered and bowed her head, And sat as still as a statue of stone; Her heart was troubled yet comforted, Remembering what the angel had said Of an endless reign and of David's throne.
Then the Kings rode out of the city gate, With a clatter of hoofs in proud array; But they went not back to Herod the Great, For they knew his malice and feared his hate, And returned to their homes by another way.
* * * * *
HYMN ON THE NATIVITY
It was the winter wild, While the heaven-born child All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies; Nature, in awe of him, Had doffed her gaudy trim, With her great Master so to sympathize: It was no season then for her To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.
Only with speeches fair She wooes the gentle air, To hide her guilty front with innocent snow; And on her naked shame, Pollute with sinful blame, The saintly veil of maiden-white to throw; Confounded, that her Maker's eyes Should look so near upon her foul deformities.
But he, her fears to cease, Sent down the meek-eyed Peace: She, crowned with olive green, came softly sliding Down through the turning sphere, His ready harbinger, With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing; And, waving wide her myrtle wand, She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.
No war or battle's sound Was heard the world around: The idle spear and shield were high uphung; The hooked chariot stood Unstained with hostile blood; The trumpet spake not to the armed throng; And kings sat still with awful eye, As if they surely knew their sovereign lord was by.
But peaceful was the night, Wherein the Prince of Light His reign of peace upon the earth began: The winds, with wonder whist, Smoothly the waters kissed, Whispering new joys to the mild ocean, Who now hath quite forgot to rave, While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The stars, with deep amaze, Stand fixed in steadfast gaze, Bending one way their precious influence; And will not take their flight, For all the morning light, Or Lucifer had often warned them thence: But in their glimmering orbs did glow, Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And, though the shady gloom Had given day her room, The sun himself withheld his wonted speed, And hid his head for shame. As his inferior flame The new-enlightened world no more should need; He saw a greater sun appear Than his bright throne, or burning axletree, could bear.
The shepherds on the lawn, Or ere the point of dawn, Sat simply chatting in a rustic row; Full little thought they then That the mighty Pan Was kindly come to live with them below; Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep, Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.
When such music sweet Their hearts and ears did greet, As never was by mortal fingers strook, Divinely warbled voice Answering the stringed noise, As all their souls in blissful rapture took: The air, such pleasure loath to lose, With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.
Nature, that heard such sound, Beneath the hollow round Of Cynthia's seat, the airy region thrilling, Now was almost won, To think her part was done, And that her reign had here its last fulfilling; She knew such harmony alone Could hold all heaven and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight A globe of circular light, That with long beams the shame-faced night arrayed; The helmed cherubim, And sworded seraphim, Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displayed, Harping in loud and solemn quire, With unexpressive notes, to Heaven's new-born heir.
Such music as 'tis said Before was never made, But when of old the sons of morning sung, While the Creator great His constellations set, And the well-balanced world on hinges hung, And cast the dark foundations deep, And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep.
Ring out, ye crystal spheres, Once bless our human ears, If ye have power to touch our senses so; And let your silver chime Move in melodious time; And let the bass of Heaven's deep organ blow; And, with your ninefold harmony, Make up full concert to the angelic symphony.
For, if such holy song Enwrap our fancy long, Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold; And speckled Vanity Will sicken soon and die, And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould; And Hell itself will pass away, And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.
Yea, Truth and Justice then Will down return to men, Orbed in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing, Mercy will sit between, Throned in celestial sheen, With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering; And Heaven, as at some festival, Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall.
But wisest Fate says no, This must not yet be so; The babe yet lies in smiling infancy, That on the bitter cross Must redeem our loss, So both himself and us to glorify: Yet first, to those chained in sleep, The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep,
With such a horrid clang As on Mount Sinai rang, While the red fire and smouldering clouds outbrake; The aged earth aghast, With terror of that blast, Shall from the surface to the centre shake; When, at the world's last session, The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his throne.
And then at last our bliss, Full and perfect is, But now begins; for, from this happy day, The old dragon, underground, In straiter limits bound, Not half so far casts his usurped sway; And, wroth to see his kingdom fail, Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
The oracles are dumb; No voice or hideous hum Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving. Apollo from his shrine Can no more divine, With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving. No nightly trance, or breathed spell, Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.
The lonely mountains o'er, And the resounding shore, A voice of weeping heard and loud lament; From haunted spring and dale, Edged with poplar pale, The parting Genius is with sighing sent; With flower-inwoven tresses torn, The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.
In consecrated earth, And on the holy hearth, The Lars and Lemures mourn with midnight plaint. In urns and altars round, A drear and dying sound Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint; And the chill marble seems to sweat, While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat.
Peor and Baaelim Forsake their temples dim With that twice-battered God of Palestine; And mooned Ashtaroth Heaven's queen and mother both, Now sits not girt with tapers' holy shine; The Libyac Hammon shrinks his horn; In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz mourn.
And sullen Moloch, fled, Hath left in shadows dread His burning idol all of blackest hue: In vain with cymbals' ring They call the grisly king, In dismal dance about the furnace blue: The brutish gods of Nile as fast, Isis, and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.
Nor is Osiris seen In Memphian grove or green, Trampling the unshowered grass with lowings loud; Nor can he be at rest Within his sacred chest, Naught but profoundest hell can be his shroud; In vain with timbrelled anthems dark The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipped ark.
He feels from Judah's land The dreaded infant's hand, The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyne; Nor all the gods beside Longer dare abide, Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine; Our babe, to show his Godhead true, Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.
So, when the sun in bed, Curtained with cloudy red, Pillows his chin upon an orient wave, The flocking shadows pale Troop to the infernal jail, Each fettered ghost slips to his several grave; And the yellow-skirted fays Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze.
But see, the Virgin blest Hath laid her babe to rest; Time is our tedious song should here have ending: Heaven's youngest-teemed star Hath fixed her polished car, Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending; And all about the courtly stable Bright-harnessed angels sit in order serviceable.
* * * * *
CHRISTMAS EVE AT MR. WARDLE'S
From "Pickwick Papers"
From the center of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended with his own hands a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which Mr. Pickwick with a gallantry which would have done honour to a descendant of Lady Trollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. The old lady submitted to this piece of practical politeness with all the dignity which befitted so important and serious a solemnity, but the younger ladies not being so thoroughly imbued with a superstitious veneration of the custom, or imagining that the value of a salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtain it, screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, until some of the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point of desisting, when they all at once found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed with a good grace. Mr. Winkle kissed the young lady with the black eyes, and Mr. Snodgrass kissed Emily; and Mr. Weller, not being particular about the form of being under the mistletoe, kissed Emma and the other female servants, just as he caught them. As to the poor relations, they kissed everybody, not even excepting the plainer portion of the young-lady visitors, who, in their excessive confusion, ran right under the mistletoe, directly it was hung up, without knowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying the whole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy took the opportunity of appropriating to his own use, and summarily devouring, a particularly fine mince-pie, that had been carefully put by for somebody else.
Now the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow and curls in a tangle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old lady as before mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, looking with a very pleased countenance on all that was passing around him, when the young lady with the black eyes, after a little whispering with the other young ladies, made a sudden dart forward, and, putting her arm around Mr. Pickwick's neck, saluted him affectionately on the left cheek; and before Mr. Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surrounded by the whole body, and kissed by every one of them.
It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group, now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin and then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and to hear the peals of laughter which were raised on every side; but it was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a silk-handkerchief, falling up against the wall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all the mysteries of blind-man's buff, with the utmost relish of the game, until at last he caught one of the poor relations; and then had to evade the blind-man himself, which he did with a nimbleness and agility that elicited the admiration and applause of all beholders. The poor relations caught just the people whom they thought would like it; and when the game flagged, got caught themselves. When they were all tired of blind-man's buff, there was a great game at snapdragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the raisons gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary washhouse copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.
"This," said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, "this is, indeed, comfort."
"Our invariable custom," replied Mr. Wardle. "Everybody sits down with us on Christmas eve, as you see them now—servants and all; and here we wait till the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and wile away the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire."
Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred, and the deep red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the furthest corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on every face.
"Come," said Wardle, "a song—a Christmas song. I'll give you one, in default of a better."
"Bravo," said Mr. Pickwick.
"Fill up," cried Wardle. "It will be two hours good, before you see the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail; fill up all round, and now for the song."
Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice, commenced without more ado—
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing Let the blossoms and buds be borne: He woos them amain with his treacherous rain, And he scatters them ere the morn. An inconstant elf, he knows not himself, Or his own changing mind an hour, He'll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace, He'll wither your youngest flower.
Let the summer sun to his bright home run, He shall never be sought by me; When he's dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud, And care not how sulky he be; For his darling child is the madness wild That sports in fierce fever's train; And when love is too strong, it don't last long, As many have found to their pain.
A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light Of the modest and gentle moon, Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween, Than the broad and unblushing noon, But every leaf awakens my grief, As it lieth beneath the tree; So let Autumn air be never so fair, It by no means agrees with me.
But my song I troll out, for Christmas stout, The hearty, the true, and the bold; A bumper I drain, and with might and main Give three cheers for this Christmas old. We'll usher him in with a merry din That shall gladden his joyous heart, And we'll keep him up while there's bite or sup, And in fellowship good, we'll part.
In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide One jot of his hard-weather scars; They're no disgrace, for there's much the same trace On the cheeks of our bravest tars. Then again I sing 'till the roof doth ring, And it echoes from wall to wall— To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night, As the King of the Seasons all!
* * * * *
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS
CLEMENT C. MOORE
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced through their heads; And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,— When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow, Gave a lustre of midday to objects below; When what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled and shouted and called them by name: "Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall! Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!" As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So, up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With a sleigh full of toys,—and St. Nicholas too. And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof, As I drew in my head and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack. His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face, and a little round belly That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump,—a right jolly old elf— And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle; But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight: "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
* * * * *
A CHRISTMAS PIECE
Of garnered rhyme, from hidden stores of olden time that since the language did begin, have welcomed merry Christmas in, and made the winter nights so long, fleet by on wings of wine and song; for when the snow is on the roof, the house within is sorrow proof, if yule log blazes on the hearth, and cups and hearts o'er-brim with mirth. Then bring the wassail to the board, with nuts and fruit—the winter's hoard; and bid the children take off shoe, to hang their stockings by the flue; and let the clear and frosty sky, set out its brightest jewelry, to show old Santa Claus the road, so he may ease his gimcrack load. And with the coming of these times, we'll add some old and lusty rhymes, that suit the festive season well, and sound as sweet as Christmas bell.
Now just bethink of castle gate, where humble midnight mummers wait, to try if voices, one and all, can rouse the tipsy seneschal, to give them bread and beer and brawn, for tidings of the Christmas morn; or bid each yelper clear his throat, with water of the castle moat, for thus they used, by snow and torch, to rear their voices at the porch:
Fred S. Cozzens.
* * * * *
Wassail! wassail! all over the town, Our toast it is white, and our ale it is brown; Our bowl is made of a maplin tree; We be good fellows all;—I drink to thee.
Here's to our horse, and to his right ear, God send master a happy new year; A happy new year as e'er he did see,— With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.
Here's to our mare, and to her right eye, God send our mistress a good Christmas pie; A good Christmas pie as e'er I did see,— With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.
Here's to our cow, and to her long tail, God send our measter us never may fail Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near, And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.
Be here any maids? I suppose here be some; Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone! Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin, And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.
Come, butler, come, bring us a bowl of the best; I hope your soul in heaven will rest; But if you do bring us a bowl of the small, Then down fall butler, and bowl and all.
- - - - -
And here's a Christmas carol meant for children, and most excellent, and though the monk that wrote it was hung, yet still his verses may be sung.
As I in a hoarie winter's night Stood shivering in the snow, Surpriz'd I was with sudden heat, Which made my heart to glow; And lifting up a fearefull eye To view what fire was neere, A prettie babe, all burning bright, Did in the aire appeare; Who, scorched with excessive heat, Such flouds of teares did shed, As though his flouds should quench his flames, Which with his teares were bred:
Alas! (quoth he) but newly borne, In fierie heats I frie, Yet none approach to warm their hearts, Or feele my fire, but I; My faultless brest the furnace is, The fuell, wounding thornes: Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, The ashes, shames and scornes; The fuell justice layeth on, And mercy blows the coales, The metalls in this furnace wrought, Are Men's defiled soules: For which, as now on fire I am, To work them to their good, So will I melt into a bath, To wash them in my blood. With this he vanisht out of sight, And swiftly shrunke away, And straight I called unto minde That it was Christmasse Day.
* * * * *
HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE
[From "My Study Fire."]
The world has been full of mysteries to-day; everybody has gone about weighted with secrets. The children's faces have fairly shone with expectancy, and I enter easily into the universal dream which at this moment holds all the children of Christendom under its spell. Was there ever a wider or more loving conspiracy than that which keeps the venerable figure of Santa Claus from slipping away, with all the other oldtime myths, into the forsaken wonderland of the past? Of all the personages whose marvelous doings once filled the minds of men, he alone survives. He has outlived all the great gods, and all the impressive and poetic conceptions which once flitted between heaven and earth; these have gone, but Santa Claus remains by virtue of a common understanding that childhood shall not be despoiled of one of its most cherished beliefs, either by the mythologist, with his sun myth theory, or the scientist, with his heartless diatribe against superstition. There is a good deal more to be said on this subject, if this were the place to say it; even superstition has its uses, and sometimes, its sound heart of truth. He who does not see in the legend of Santa Claus a beautiful faith on one side, and the naive embodiment of a divine fact on the other, is not fit to have a place at the Christmas board. For him there should be neither carol, nor holly, nor mistletoe; they only shall keep the feast to whom all these things are but the outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.
Rosalind and myself are thoroughly orthodox when it comes to the keeping of holidays; here at least the ways of our fathers are our ways also. Orthodoxy generally consists in retaining and emphasizing the disagreeable ways of the fathers, and as we are both inclined to heterodoxy on these points, we make the more prominent our observance of the best of the old-time habits. I might preach a pleasant little sermon just here, taking as my text the "survival of the fittest," and illustrating the truth from our own domestic ritual; but the season preaches its own sermon, and I should only follow the example of some ministers and get between the text and my congregation if I made the attempt. For weeks we have all been looking forward to this eventful evening, and the still more eventful morrow. There have been hurried and whispered conferences hastily suspended at the sound of a familiar step on the stair; packages of every imaginable size and shape have been surreptitiously introduced into the house, and have immediately disappeared in all manner of out-of-the-way places; and for several weeks past one room has been constantly under lock and key, visited only when certain sharp-sighted eyes were occupied in other directions. Through all this scene of mystery Rosalind has moved sedately and with sealed lips, the common confidant of all the conspirators, and herself the greatest conspirator of all. Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!
After dinner, eaten, let it be confessed, with more haste and less accompaniment of talk than usual, the parlor doors were opened, and there stood the Christmas tree in a glow of light, its wonderful branches laden with all manner of strange fruits not to be found in the botanies. The wild shouts, the merry laughter, the cries of delight as one coveted fruit after another dropped into long-expectant arms still linger in my ears now that the little tapers are burnt out, the boughs left bare, and the actors in the perennial drama are fast asleep, with new and strange bedfellows selected from the spoils of the night. Cradled between a delightful memory and a blissful anticipation, who does not envy them?
After this charming prelude is over, Rosalind comes into the study, and studies for the fortieth time the effect of the new design of decoration which she had this year worked out, and which gives these rather somber rows of books a homelike and festive aspect. It pleases me to note the spray of holly that obscures the title of Bacon's solemn and weighty "Essays," and I get half a page of suggestions for my notebook from the fact that a sprig of mistletoe has fallen on old Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy." Rosalind has reason to be satisfied, and if I read her face aright she has succeeded even in her own eyes in bringing Christmas, with its fragrant memories and its heavenly visions, into the study. I cannot help thinking, as I watch her piling up the fire for a blaze of unusual splendor, that if more studies had their Rosalinds to bring in the genial currents of life there would be more cheer and hope and large-hearted wisdom in the books which the world is reading to-day.
When the fire has reached a degree of intensity and magnitude which Rosalind thinks adequate to the occasion, I take down a well-worn volume which opens of itself at a well-worn page. It is a book which I have read and re-read many times, and always with a kindling sympathy and affection for the man who wrote it; in whatever mood I take it up there is something in it which touches me with a sense of kinship. It is not a great book, but it is a book of the heart, and books of the heart have passed beyond the outer court of criticism before we bestow upon them that phrase of supreme regard. There are other books of the heart around me, but on Christmas Eve it is Alexander Smith's "Dreamthorp" which always seems to lie at my hand, and when I take it up the well-worn volume falls open at the essay on "Christmas." It is a good many years since Rosalind and I began to read together on Christmas Eve this beautiful meditation on the season, and now it has gathered about itself such a host of memories that it has become part of our common past. It is, indeed, a veritable palimpsest, overlaid with tender and gracious recollections out of which the original thought gains a new and subtle sweetness. As I read it aloud I know that she sees once more the familiar landscape about Dreamthorp, with the low, dark hill in the background, and over it "the tender radiance that precedes the moon"; the village windows are all lighted, and the "whole place shines like a congregation of glowworms." There are the skaters still "leaning against the frosty wind"; there is the "gray church tower amid the leafless elms," around which the echoes of the morning peal of Christmas bells still hover; the village folk have gathered, "in their best dresses and their best faces"; the beautiful service of the church has been read and answered with heartfelt responses, the familiar story has been told again simply and urgently, with applications for every thankful soul, and then the congregation has gone to its homes and its festivities.