In The Yule-Log Glow—Book 3 - Christmas Poems from 'round the World
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"Sic as folk tell ower at a winter ingle" Scott




Copyright, 1891, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.



Fancy, if you will, Gentle Reader, that, between the intervals of tale-telling,—the Yule-log still ruddy upon the visages of your fellow-guests from many lands,—fancy that a quiet traveller draws out of his side-pocket a little, well-worn pair of books from which he reads some scrap of verse or some melodious Christmas poem. Fancy, too, that, beneath the inn windows, in the snow outside, an occasional band of the Waits strikes up an ancient carol with voice and horn, begging, when the music is done, admittance to the glowing warmth within doors and a share in the plenteous cakes and ale.

Imagine this, if you will, and choose, from the pages to come, whatever of old or new will fit well into the conceit; for not a few carols or legends lie there which have done service under the snow-covered gables or by the crackling wood, and which will help, with their quaint heartiness or simple beauty, to realize the charm of Christmas the world around,—that charm which flows from hearty and generous good-will towards men; which has for its inner light the kindly desire for peace on earth.





A VISION " 200



The Hallowed Time 11

On the Morning of Christ's Nativity 12

The First Roman Christmas 23

The Three Damsels 25

King Olaf's Christmas[A] 29

Halbert and Hob 33

Good King Wenceslas 39

The Wise Men of the East 41

Christmas at Sea 46

"Last Christmas was a Year ago"[B] 50


A Christmas "Now" 59

Christmas Eve Customs 63

Merry Souls 64

Christmas in the Olden Time 66

Ceremonies for Christmas 68

Bringing in the Boar's Head 69

The Boar's Head Carol 70

To be Eaten with Mustard 71

Christmas-Day in the Morning 72

Praise of Christmas 73

Winter's Delights 78

A Christmas Catch 79

The Epic 80

The Country Life 89

Christmas Omnipresent 90

An Old English Christmas-Tide 94

Signs of Christmas 97

The Mistletoe 99

Christmas of Old 101

A Plea for a Present 112

A New-Year's Gift Sent to Sir Simeon Steward 114

The New-Year's Gift 116

An Invitation to the Revel 117

A Christmas Ditty 120

At the End of the Feast 121

Twelfth Night; or, King and Queen 123

Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve 125

Another Ceremony 126

The Ceremonies for Candlemas Day 127

Another Ceremony 127

Saint Distaff's Day, the Morrow after Twelfth Day 128


On Oaten Pipes 131

Pipe-Playing 132

The First Carol 134

In Bethlehem 137

A Carol in the Pastures 139

The Shepherds 141

On Shepherds' Pipes 144

Angel Tidings 145

The News-Bearers 146

Hymn for Christmas-Day 149

A Hymn of the Nativity 150

Sung by the Shepherd 155

From "The Light of the World"[C] 158


Old Christmas Returned 179

The Trencherman 184

Ban and Blessing 186

Thrice Welcome! 187

Christmas Provender 188

Glee and Solace 189

On Saint John's Day 191

Christmas Alms 193

Christmas at the Round-Table 195


A Carol at the Manger 199

A Dream Carol 200

The King in the Cradle 202

Madonna and Child 205

A Rocking Hymn 209

A Cradle-Song of the Virgin 212

Whispering Palms 214

A Christmas Lullaby 215

The Virgin's Cradle-Hymn 216

The Sovereign 217

By the Cradle-Side 219

The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus 221

A Bedside Ditty 230

Given Back on Christmas Morn 231

A Lulling Song 237

Good-Night 239


[A] By the courtesy of Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

[B] By the courtesy of The Century Company.

[C] By the courtesy of Messrs. Funk & Wagnalls.

Legends in Song.

"Tell sweet old tales, Sing songs as we sit bending o'er the hearth, Till the lamp flickers and the memory fails."

Frederick Tennyson.


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 dares stir abroad; The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, So hallowed and so gracious is the time.



This is the month, and this the happy morn, Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King, Of wedded maid and virgin mother born, Our great redemption from above did bring; For so the holy sages once did sing, That he our deadly forfeit should release, And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.

That glorious form, that light insufferable, And that far-beaming blaze of majesty, Wherewith he wont at heaven's high council-table To sit the midst of Trinal Unity, He laid aside; and, here with us to be, Forsook the courts of everlasting day, And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.

Say, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein Afford a present to the Infant-God? Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain To welcome him to this his new abode, Now while the heaven, by the sun's team untrod, Hath took no print of the approaching light, And all the spangled host kept watch in squadron bright?

See, how from far, upon the eastern road, The star-led wizards haste with odors sweet; O run, prevent them with thy humble ode, And lay it lowly at his blessed feet; Have thou the honor first thy Lord to greet, And join thy voice unto the angel-quire, From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.


It was the winter wild, While the heaven-born Child All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies; Nature in awe to him, Had doff'd 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 woos 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, crown'd 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 an universal peace through sea and land.

No war, or battle's sound Was heard the world around; The idle spear and shield were high up-hung; The hooked chariot stood Unstain'd 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 kist, 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 fix'd in steadfast gaze, Bending one way their precious influence; And will not take their flight, For all the morning light, Or Lucifer that often warn'd 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-enlighten'd 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 e'er 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 loth 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 array'd; The helmed cherubim, And sworded seraphim, Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd, 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 base 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, Orb'd 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 lies yet in smiling infancy, That on the bitter cross Must redeem our loss, So both himself and us to glorify: Yet first, to those ychain'd 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 outbreak: 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, under ground In straighter 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 moan 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-batter'd god of Palestine; And mooned Ashtaroth, Heaven's queen and mother both, Now sits not girt with tapers' holy shine; The Lybic 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 unshower'd 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 timbrell'd anthems dark, The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipt ark.

He feels from Judah's land The dreaded Infant's hand, The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn; Nor all the gods beside Longer dare abide, Nor 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, Curtain'd with cloudy red, Pillows his chin upon an orient wave, The flocking shadows pale Troop to the infernal jail, Each fetter'd 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 fix'd her polished car, Her sleeping Lord, with handmaid lamp attending: And all about the courtly stable Bright-harnessed angels sit in order serviceable.

John Milton.


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 hushed domain; Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars Held undisturbed their ancient reign, In the solemn midnight Centuries ago.

'Twas in the calm and silent night! The senator of haughty Rome Impatient urged his chariot's flight, From lonely revel rolling home. Triumphal arches, gleaming, swell His breast with thoughts of boundless sway; What recked 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, Fallen through a half-shut stable-door, Across his path. He passed; for naught 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 Drowsed 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 forever! To that still moment none would heed, Man's doom was linked, 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, charmed, 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.

Alfred H. Domett.



Three damsels in the queen's chamber, The queen's mouth was most fair; She spake a word of God's mother As the combs went in her hair. Mary that is of might, Bring us to thy Son's sight.

They held the gold combs out from her A span's length off her head; She sang this song of God's mother And of her bearing-bed. Mary most full of grace, Bring us to thy Son's face.

When she sat at Joseph's hand, She looked against her side; And either way from the short silk band Her girdle was all wried. Mary that all good may, Bring us to thy Son's way.

Mary had three women for her bed, The twain were maidens clean; The first of them had white and red, The third had riven green. Mary that is so sweet, Bring us to thy Son's feet.

She had three women for her hair, Two were gloved soft and shod; The third had feet and fingers bare, She was the likest God. Mary that wieldeth land, Bring us to thy Son's hand.

She had three women for her ease, The twain were good women; The first two were the two Maries, The third was Magdalen. Mary that perfect is, Bring us to thy Son's kiss.

Joseph had three workmen in his stall, To serve him well upon; The first of them were Peter and Paul, The third of them was John. Mary, God's handmaiden, Bring us to thy Son's ken.

"If your child be none other man's, But if it be very mine, The bedstead shall be gold two spans, The bed-foot silver fine." Mary that made God mirth, Bring us to thy Son's birth.

"If the child be some other man's, And if it be none of mine, The manger shall be straw two spans, Betwixen kine and kine." Mary that made sin cease, Bring us to thy Son's peace.

Christ was born upon this wise: It fell on such a night, Neither with sounds of psalteries, Nor with fire for light. Mary that is God's spouse, Bring us to thy Son's house.

The star came out upon the east With a great sound and sweet: Kings gave gold to make him feast And myrrh for him to eat. Mary of thy sweet mood, Bring us to thy Son's good.

He had two handmaids at his head, One handmaid at his feet; The twain of them were fair and red, The third one was right sweet. Mary that is most wise, Bring us to thy Son's eyes. Amen.

Algernon Charles Swinburne.


At Drontheim, Olaf the King Heard the bells of Yule-tide ring, As he sat in his banquet hall, Drinking the nut-brown ale, With his bearded Berserks hale And tall.

Three days his Yule-tide feasts He held with Bishops and Priests, And his horn filled up to the brim; But the ale was never too strong, Nor the Sagaman's tale too long, For him.

O'er his drinking-horn, the sign He made of the cross divine As he drank, and muttered his prayers; But the Berserks evermore Made the sign of the Hammer of Thor Over theirs.

The gleams of the fire-light dance Upon helmet and hauberk and lance And laugh in the eyes of the king; And he cries to Halfred the Scald, Gray-bearded, wrinkled, and bald: "Sing!

"Sing me a song divine, With a sword in every line, And this shall be thy reward;" And he loosened the belt at his waist, And in front of the singer placed His sword.

"Quern-biter of Hakon the Good, Wherewith at a stroke he hewed The millstone through and through, And Foot-breadth of Thoralf the Strong Were neither so broad nor so long Nor so true."

Then the Scald took his harp and sang, And loud through the music rang The sound of that shining word; And the harp-strings a clangor made As if they were struck with the blade Of a sword.

And the Berserks round about Broke forth into a shout That made the rafters ring; They smote with their fists on the board, And shouted, "Long live the sword And the King!"

But the king said, "O my son, I miss the bright word in one Of thy measures and thy rhymes." And Halfred the Scald replied, "In another 'twas multiplied Three times."

Then King Olaf raised the hilt Of iron, cross-shaped and gilt, And said, "Do not refuse; Count well the gain and the loss, Thor's hammer or Christ's cross: Choose!"

And Halfred the Scald said, "This, In the name of the Lord, I kiss, Who on it was crucified!" And a shout went round the board, "In the name of Christ the Lord Who died!"

Then over the waste of snows The noonday sun uprose Through the driving mists revealed, Like the lifting of the Host, By incense-clouds almost Concealed.

On the shining wall a vast And shadowy cross was cast From the hilt of the lifted sword, And in foaming cups of ale The Berserks drank "Was-hael! To the Lord!"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


Here is a thing that happened. Like wild beasts whelped, for den, In a wild part of North England, there lived once two wild men, Inhabiting one homestead, neither a hovel nor hut, Time out of mind their birthright: father and son, these,—but,— Such a son, such a father! Most wildness by degrees Softens away: yet, last of their line, the wildest and worst were these.

Criminals, then? Why, no: they did not murder and rob; But give them a word, they returned a blow,—old Halbert as young Hob: Harsh and fierce of word, rough and savage of deed, Hated or feared the more—who knows?—the genuine wild-beast breed.

Thus were they found by the few sparse folk of the country-side; But how fared each with other? E'en beasts couch, hide by hide. In a growling, grudged agreement: so father son lay curled The closelier up in their den because the last of their kind in the world.

Still, beast irks beast on occasion. One Christmas night of snow, Came father and son to words—such words! more cruel because the blow To crown each word was wanting, while taunt matched gibe, and curse Competed with oath in wager, like pastime in hell,—nay, worse: For pastime turned to earnest, as up there sprang at last The son at the throat of the father, seized him, and held him fast.

"Out of this house you go!"—there followed a hideous oath— "This oven where now we bake, too hot to hold us both! If there's snow outside, there's coolness: out with you, bide a spell In the drift, and save the sexton the charge of a parish shell!"

Now, the old trunk was tough, was solid as stump of oak Untouched at the core by a thousand years: much less had its seventy broke One whipcord nerve in the muscly mass from neck to shoulder-blade Of the mountainous man, whereon his child's rash hand like a feather weighed.

Nevertheless at once did the mammoth shut his eyes, Drop chin to breast, drop hands to sides, stand stiffened,—arms and thighs All of a piece—struck mute, much as a sentry stands, Patient to take the enemy's fire: his captain so commands.

Whereat the son's wrath flew to fury at such sheer scorn Of his puny strength by the giant eld thus acting the babe new-born: And "Neither will this turn serve!" yelled he. "Out with you! Trundle, log! If you cannot tramp and trudge like a man, try all-fours like a dog!"

Still the old man stood mute. So, logwise,—down to floor Pulled from his fireside place, dragged on from hearth to door,— Was he pushed, a very log, staircase along, until A certain turn in the steps was reached, a yard from the house-door sill.

Then the father opened his eyes,—each spark of their rage extinct,— Temples, late black, dead-blanched, right-hand with left-hand linked,— He faced his son submissive; when slow the accents came, They were strangely mild though his son's rash hand on his neck lay all the same.

"Halbert, on such a night of a Christmas long ago, For such a cause, with such a gesture, did I drag—so— My father down thus far: but, softening here, I heard A voice in my heart, and stopped: you wait for an outer word.

"For your own sake, not mine, soften you too! Untrod Leave this last step we reach, nor brave the finger of God! I dared not pass its lifting: I did well. I nor blame Nor praise you. I stopped here: Halbert, do you the same!"

Straightway the son relaxed his hold of the father's throat. They mounted, side by side, to the room again: no note Took either of each, no sign made each to either: last As first, in absolute silence, their Christmas-night they passed.

At dawn, the father sate on, dead, in the selfsame place, With an outburst blackening still the old bad fighting-face: But the son crouched all a-tremble like any lamb new-yeaned.

When he went to the burial, some one's staff he borrowed,—tottered and leaned. But his lips were loose, not locked,—kept muttering, mumbling. "There! At his cursing and swearing!" the youngsters cried; but the elders thought, "In prayer."

A boy threw stones; he picked them up and stored them in his vest; So tottered, muttered, mumbled he, till he died, perhaps found rest. "Is there a reason in nature for these hard hearts?" O Lear, That a reason out of nature must turn them soft, seems clear!

Robert Browning.


Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the feast of Stephen, When the snow lay round about, Deep, and crisp, and even; Brightly shone the moon that night, Tho' the frost was cruel, When a poor man came in sight, Gathering winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou know'st it, telling, Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?" "Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain; Right against the forest fence, By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, Bring me pine-logs hither: Thou and I will see him dine, When we bear them thither." Page and monarch forth they went, Forth they went together Thro' the rude wind's wild lament And the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, And the wind blows stronger; Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer." "Mark my footsteps, good my page; Tread thou in them boldly: Thou shalt find the winter's rage Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, Where the snow lay dinted; Heat was in the very sod Which the saint had printed. Therefore, Christian men, be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing.

Translated from the Latin, by J. M. Neale.


Three kings went riding from the East Through fine weather and wet; "And whither shall we ride," they said, "Where we ha' not ridden yet?"

"And whither shall we ride," they said, "To find the hidden thing That times the course of all our stars And all our auguring?"

They were the Wise Men of the East, And none so wise as they; "Alas!" the King of Persia cried, "And must ye ride away?

"Yet since ye go a-riding, sirs, I pray ye, ride for me, And carry me my golden gifts To the King o' Galilee.

"Go riding into Palestine, A long ride and a fair!" "'Tis well!" the Mages answered him, "As well as anywhere!"

They rode by day, they rode by night, The stars came out on high,— "And, oh!" said King Balthazar, As he gazed into the sky,

"We ride by day, we ride by night, To a King in Galilee; We leave a king in Persia, And kings no less are we.

"Yet often in the deep blue night, When stars burn far and dim, I wish I knew a greater King, To fall and worship him.

"A king who should not care to reign, But wonderful and fair; A king—a king that were a star Aloft in miles of air!"

"A star is good," said Melchior, "A high, unworldly thing; But I would choose a soul alive To be my Lord and King.

"Not Herod, nay, nor Cyrus, nay, Not any king at all; For I would choose a new-born child Laid in a manger-stall."

"'Tis well," the black King Casper cried, "For mighty men are ye; But no such humble king were meet For my simplicity.

"A star is small and very far, A babe's a simple thing; The very Son of God himself Shall be my Lord and King!"

Then smiled the King Balthazar; "A good youth!" Melchior cried; And young and old, without a word, Along the hills they ride,

Till, lo! among the western skies There grows a shining thing— "The star! Behold the star," they shout; "Behold Balthazar's King!"

And, lo! within the western skies The star begins to flit; The three kings spur their horses on, And follow after it.

And when they reach the king's palace, They cry, "Behold the place!" But, like a shining bird, the star Flits on in heaven apace.

Oh they rode on, and on they rode, Till they reached a lonely wold, Where shepherds keep their flocks by night, And the night was chill and cold.

Oh they rode on, and on they rode, Till they reach a little town, And there the star in heaven stands still Above a stable brown.

The town is hardly a village, The stable's old and poor, But there the star in heaven stands still Above the stable door.

And through the open door, the straw And the tired beasts they see; And the Babe, laid in a manger, That sleepeth peacefully.

"All hail, the King of Melchior!" The three Wise Men begin; King Melchior swings from off his horse, And he would have entered in.

But why do the horses whinny and neigh? And what thing fills the night With wheeling spires of angels, And streams of heavenly light?

Above the stable roof they turn And hover in a ring, And "Glory be to God on high And peace on earth," they sing.

King Melchior kneels upon the grass And falls a-praying there; Balthazar lets the bridle drop, And gazes in the air.

But Casper gives a happy shout, And hastens to the stall; "Now, hail!" he cries, "thou Son of God, And Saviour of us all."

A. Mary F. Robinson.


The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand; The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand; The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea; And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day; But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay. We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout, And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North; All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth; All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread, For very life and nature, we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared; But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard; So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high, And the coast-guard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam; The good red fires were burning bright in every 'longshore home; The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out; And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer; For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year) This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn, And the house above the coast-guard's was the house where I was born.

Oh, well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there, My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair; And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves, Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me, Of the shadow on the household, and the son that went to sea; And, oh, the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way, To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall. "All hands to loose topgallant sails!" I heard the captain call. "By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate, Jackson, cried. ... "It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good, And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood. As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night, We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me, As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea; But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold, Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Robert Louis Stevenson.



Last Christmas was a year ago Says I to David, I-says-I, "We're goin' to mornin' service, so You hitch up right away: I'll try To tell the girls jes what to do Fer dinner. We'll be back by two." I didn't wait to hear what he Would more'n like say back to me, But banged the stable-door and flew Back to the house, jes plumb chilled through.

Cold! Wooh! how cold it was! My-oh! Frost flyin', and the air, you know— "Jes sharp enough," heerd David swear, "To shave a man and cut his hair!" And blow and blow! and snow and SNOW, Where it had drifted 'long the fence And 'crost the road,—some places, though, Jes swep' clean to the gravel, so The goin' was as bad fer sleighs As 't was fer wagons,—and both ways, 'Twixt snow-drifts and the bare ground, I've Jes wondered we got through alive; I hain't saw nothin' 'fore er sence 'At beat it anywheres I know— Last Christmas was a year ago.

And David said, as we set out, 'At Christmas services was 'bout As cold and wuthless kind o' love To offer up as he knowed of; And, as fer him, he railly thought 'At the Good Bein' up above Would think more of us—as he ought— A-stayin' home on sich a day And thankin' of him thataway. And jawed on in an undertone, 'Bout leavin' Lide and Jane alone There on the place, and me not there To oversee 'em, and p'pare The stuffin' for the turkey, and The sass and all, you understand.

I've always managed David by Jes sayin' nothin'. That was why He'd chased Lide's beau away—'cause Lide She'd allus take up Perry's side When David tackled him; and so, Last Christmas was a year ago,— Er ruther 'bout a week afore,— David and Perry'd quarr'l'd about Some tom-fool argyment, you know, And pap told him to "Jes git out O' there, and not to come no more, And, when he went, to shet the door!" And as he passed the winder, we Saw Perry, white as white could be, March past, onhitch his hoss, and light A see-gyar, and lope out o' sight. Then Lide she come to me and cried. And I said nothin'—was no need. And yit, you know, that man jes got Right out o' there's ef he'd be'n shot— P'tendin' he must go and feed The stock er somepin'. Then I tried To git the pore girl pacified.

But gittin' back to—where was we?— Oh, yes—where David lectered me All way to meetin', high and low, Last Christmas was a year ago. Fer all the awful cold, they was A fair attendunce; mostly, though, The crowd was 'round the stoves, you see, Thawin' their heels and scrougin' us. Ef't 'adn't be'n fer the old Squire Givin' his seat to us, as in We stompted, a-fairly perishin', And David could 'a' got no fire, He'd jes 'a' drapped there in his tracks. And Squire, as I was tryin' to yit Make room fer him, says, "No; the facks Is I got to git up and git 'Ithout no preachin'. Jes got word— Trial fer life—can't be deferred!" And out he put. And all way through The sermont—and a long one, too— I couldn't he'p but think o' Squire And us changed round so, and admire His gintle ways—to give his warm Bench up, and have to face the storm. And when I noticed David he Was needin' jabbin', I thought best To kind o' sort o' let him rest— 'Peared like he slep' so peacefully! And then I thought o' home, and how And what the girls was doin' now, And kind o' prayed, 'way in my breast, And breshed away a tear er two As David waked, and church was through.

By time we'd "howdyed" round, and shuck Hands with the neighbors, must 'a' tuck A half-hour longer: ever' one A-sayin' "Christmas-gift!" afore David er me—so we got none. But David warmed up, more and more, And got so jokey-like, and had His sperits up, and 'peared so glad, I whispered to him, "S'pose you ast A passel of 'em come and eat Their dinners with us.—Girls 's got A full-and-plenty fer the lot And all their kin." So David passed The invite round. And ever' seat In ever' wagon-bed and sleigh Was jes packed, as we rode away— The young folks, mild er so along, A-strikin' up a sleighin' song. Tel David laughed and yelled, you know, And jes whirped up and sent the snow And gravel flyin' thick and fast— Last Christmas was a year ago. W'y, that-air seven-mild ja'nt we come— Jes seven mild scant from church to home— It didn't 'pear, that day, to be Much furder railly 'n 'bout three.

But I was purty squeamish by The time home hove in sight and I See two vehickles standin' there Already. So says I, "Prepare!" All to myse'f. And presently David he sobered; and says he, "Hain't that-air Squire Hanch's old Buggy," he says, "and claybank mare?" Says I, "Le's git in out the cold— Your company's nigh 'bout froze." He says, "Whose sleigh's that-air a-standin' there?" Says I, "It's no odds whose—you jes Drive to the house and let us out, 'Cause we're jes freezin', nigh about." Well, David swung up to the door And out we piled. At first I heerd Jane's voice; then Lide's—I thought afore I reached that girl I'd jes die, shore; And when I reached her, wouldn't keered Much ef I had, I was so glad, A-kissin' her through my green veil, And jes excitin' her so bad 'At she broke down, herse'f—and Jane She cried—and we all hugged again. And David—David jes turned pale!— Looked at the girls and then at me, Then at the open door—and then "Is old Squire Hanch in there?" says he. The old Squire suddently stood in The doorway, with a sneakin' grin. "Is Perry Anders in there, too?" Says David, limberin' all through, As Lide and me both grabbed him, and Perry stepped out and waved his hand And says, "Yes, pap." And David jes Stooped and kissed Lide, and says, "I guess Your mother's much to blame as you. Ef she kin resk him, I kin too."

The dinner we had then hain't no Bit better'n the one to-day 'At we'll have fer 'em. Hear some sleigh A-jinglin' now.—David, fer me, I wish you'd jes go out and see Ef they're in sight yit. It jes does Me good to think, in times like these, Lide's done so well. And David he's More tractabler 'n what he was Last Christmas was a year ago.

James Whitcomb Riley.

As It Fell Upon A Day.

"A handsome hostess, merry host, A pot of ale and now a toast, Tobacco, and a good coal-fire, Are things this season doth require."

Poor Robin.


So, now is come our joyful'st feast, Let every man be jolly; Each room with ivy-leaves is drest, And every post with holly. Though some churls at our mirth repine, Round your foreheads garlands twine; Drown sorrow in a cup of wine, And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors' chimneys smoke, And Christmas logs are burning; Their ovens they with baked meats choke, And all their spits are turning. Without the door let sorrow lie; And if for cold it hap to die, We'll bury 't in a Christmas-pie, And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim, And no man minds his labor; Our lasses have provided them A bagpipe and a tabor; Young men and maids, and girls and boys, Give life to one another's joys; And you anon shall by their noise Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun; Their hall of music soundeth; And dogs thence with whole shoulders run, So all things there aboundeth. The country folks themselves advance For crowdy-mutton's come out of France; And Jack shall pipe, and Jill shall dance, And all the town be merry.

Ned Squash has fetched his bands from pawn, And all his best apparel; Brisk Ned hath bought a ruff of lawn With droppings of the barrel; And those that hardly all the year Had bread to eat or rags to wear Will have both clothes and dainty fare, And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices With capons make their arrants; And if they hap to fail of these, They plague them with their warrants: But now they feed them with good cheer, And what they want they take in beer; For Christmas comes but once a year, And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse The poor that else were undone; Some landlords spend their money worse On lust and pride at London. There the roysters they do play, Drab and dice their lands away, Which may be ours another day; And therefore let's be merry.

The client now his suit forbears, The prisoner's heart is eased; The debtor drinks away his cares, And for the time is pleased. Though other purses be more fat, Why should we pine or grieve at that? Hang sorrow! care will kill a cat, And therefore let's be merry.

Hark! how the wags abroad do call Each other forth to rambling: Anon you'll see them in the hall For nuts and apples scrambling. Hark! how the roofs with laughter sound! Anon they'll think the house goes round: For they the cellar's depth have found, And there they will be merry.

The wenches with their wassail bowls, About the streets are singing; The boys are come to catch the owls, The wild mare in is bringing. Our kitchen-boy hath broke his box, And to the dealing of the ox Our honest neighbors come by flocks, And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have, And mate with everybody; The honest now may play the knave, And wise men play at noddy. Some youths will now a mumming go, Some others play at Rowland-ho, And twenty other gameboys mo, Because they will be merry.

Then wherefore in these merry days, Should we, I pray, be duller? No, let us sing some roundelays To make our mirth the fuller. And, whilst thus inspired, we sing, Let all the streets with echoes ring, Woods, and hills, and everything Bear witness we are merry.

George Wither.



Come, guard this night the Christmas-pie, That the thief, though ne'er so sly, With his flesh-hooks, don't come nigh To catch it,

From him, who alone sits there, Having his eyes still in his ear, And a deal of nightly fear To watch it!


Wash your hands, or else the fire Will not teend[D] to your desire; Unwashed hands, ye maidens, know, Dead the fire, though ye blow.

Robert Herrick.


[D] Burn.


O you merry, merry Souls, Christmas is a-coming, We shall have flowing bowls, Dancing, piping, drumming.

Delicate minced pies To feast every virgin, Capon and goose likewise, Brawn and a dish of sturgeon.

Then, for your Christmas box, Sweet plum-cakes and money, Delicate Holland smocks, Kisses sweet as honey.

Hey for the Christmas ball, Where we shall be jolly Jigging short and tall, Kate, Dick, Ralph, and Molly.

Then to the hop we'll go Where we'll jig and caper; Maidens all-a-row; Will shall pay the scraper.

Hodge shall dance with Prue, Keeping time with kisses; We'll have a jovial crew Of sweet smirking misses.

Round About Our Coal Fire.


The damsel donned her kirtle sheen; The hall was dressed with holly green; Forth to the wood did merry-men go To gather in the mistletoe. Then opened wide the baron's hall To vassal, tenant, serf, and all; Power laid his rod of rule aside, And ceremony doffed his pride. The heir, with roses in his shoes, That night might village partner choose; The lord underogating share The vulgar game of post-and-pair. All hailed with uncontrolled delight And general voice, the happy night, That to the cottage as the crown Brought tidings of salvation down. The fire with well-dried logs supplied Went roaring up the chimney wide; The huge hall-table's oaken face, Scrubbed till it shone, the day to grace, Bore then upon its massive board No mark to part the squire and lord. Then was brought in the lusty brawn By old blue-coated serving-man; Then the grim boar's head frowned on high, Crested with bay and rosemary. Well can the green-garbed ranger tell How, when, and where the monster fell; What dogs before his death he tore, And all the baiting of the boar. The wassail round, in good brown bowls, Garnished with ribbons blithely trowls. There the huge sirloin reeked; hard by Plum-porridge stood and Christmas-pie; Nor failed old Scotland to produce At such high tide her savory goose. Then came the merry masquers in And carols roared with blithesome din; If unmelodious was the song, It was a hearty note and strong. Who lists may in their mumming see Traces of ancient mystery. While shirts supplied the masquerade, And smutted cheeks the visors made: But, oh! what masquers richly dight Can boast of bosoms half so light! England was merry England when Old Christmas brought his sports again. 'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale, 'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale; A Christmas gambol oft would cheer The poor man's heart through half the year.

Sir Walter Scott.


Come, bring with a noise, My merry, merry boys, The Christmas-log to the firing, While my good dame, she Bids ye all be free, And drink to your heart's desiring.

With the last year's brand Light the new block, and, For good success in his spending, On your psalteries play, That sweet luck may Come while the log is a-teending.[E]

Drink now the strong beer, Cut the white loaf here, The while the meat is a-shredding; For the rare mince-pie And the plums stand by, To fill the paste that's a-kneading.

Robert Herrick.


[E] Burning.


Caput apri defero Reddens laudes domino. The boar's head in hand bring I, With garlands gay and rosemary; I pray you all sing merrily Qui estis in convivio.

The boar's head, I understand, Is the chief service in this land; Look, wherever it be fand, Servite cum cantico.

Be glad, lords, both more and less, For this hath ordained our steward To cheer you all this Christmas, The boar's head with mustard.

Ritson's Ancient Songs.



The boar's head in hand bear I, Bedecked with bays and rosemary; And I pray you, my masters, be merry, Quot estis in convivio. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes domino.

The boar's head, as I understand, Is the rarest dish in all this land, Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland Let us servire cantico. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes domino.

Our steward hath provided this In honor of the King of bliss; Which on this day to be served is In Reginensi Atrio. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes domino.



The boar is dead, So, here is his head; What man could have done more Than his head off to strike, Meleager-like, And bring it as I do before.

He living spoiled Where good men toiled, Which made kind Ceres sorry; But now dead and drawn Is very good brawn, And we have brought it for ye.

Then set down the swineyard, The foe to the vineyard, Let Bacchus crown his fall; Let this boar's head and mustard Stand for pig, goose, and custard, And so ye are welcome all.


Maids, get up and bake your pies, Bake your pies, bake your pies; Maids, get up and bake your pies, 'Tis Christmas day in the morning.

See the ships all sailing by, Sailing by, sailing by; See the ships all sailing by On Christmas day in the morning.

Dame, what made your ducks to die, Ducks to die, ducks to die; Dame, what made your ducks to die On Christmas day in the morning?

You let your lazy maidens lie, Maidens lie, maidens lie; You let your lazy maidens lie On Christmas day in the morning.

Bishoprick Garland, A.D. 1834.



All hail to the days that merit more praise Than all the rest of the year, And welcome the nights that double delights As well for the poor as the peer! Good fortune attend each merry-man's friend, That doth but the best that he may; Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs, To drive the cold winter away.

Let Misery pack, with a whip at his back, To the deep Tantalian flood; In Lethe profound let envy be drown'd, That pines at another man's good; Let Sorrow's expense be banded from hence, All payments have greater delay, We'll spend the long nights in cheerful delights To drive the cold winter away.

'Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined To think of small injuries now; If wrath be to seek, do not lend her thy cheek, Nor let her inhabit thy brow, Cross out of thy books malevolent looks, Both beauty and youth's decay, And wholly consort with mirth and with sport To drive the cold winter away.

The court in all state now opens her gate And gives a free welcome to most; The city likewise, tho' somewhat precise, Doth willingly part with her roast: But yet by report from city and court The country will e'er gain the day; More liquor is spent and with better content To drive the cold winter away.

Our good gentry there for costs do not spare, The yeomanry fast not till Lent; The farmers and such think nothing too much, If they keep but to pay for their rent. The poorest of all now do merrily call, When at a fit place they can stay, For a song or a tale or a cup of good ale To drive the cold winter away.

Thus none will allow of solitude now But merrily greets the time, To make it appear of all the whole year That this is accounted the prime: December is seen apparell'd in green, And January fresh as May Comes dancing along with a cup and a song To drive the cold winter away.


This time of the year is spent in good cheer, And neighbors together do meet To sit by the fire, with friendly desire, Each other in love to greet; Old grudges forgot are put in the pot, All sorrows aside they lay; The old and the young doth carol this song To drive the cold winter away.

Sisley and Nanny, more jocund than any, As blithe as the month of June, Do carol and sing like birds of the spring, No nightingale sweeter in tune; To bring in content, when summer is spent, In pleasant delight and play, With mirth and good cheer to end the whole year, And drive the cold winter away.

The shepherd, the swain, do highly disdain To waste out their time in care; And Clim of the Clough hath plenty enough If he but a penny can spare To spend at the night, in joy and delight, Now after his labor all day; For better than lands is the help of his hands To drive the cold winter away.

To mask and to mum kind neighbors will come With wassails of nut-brown ale, To drink and carouse to all in the house As merry as bucks in the dale; Where cake, bread, and cheese are brought for your fees To make you the longer stay; At the fire to warm 'twill do you no harm, To drive the cold winter away.

When Christmas's tide comes in like a bride With holly and ivy clad, Twelve days in the year much mirth and good cheer In every household is had; The country guise is then to devise Some gambols of Christmas play, Whereat the young men do best that they can To drive the cold winter away.

When white-bearded frost hath threatened his worst, And fallen from branch and brier, Then time away calls from husbandry halls And from the good countryman's fire, Together to go to plough and to sow, To get us both food and array, And thus with content the time we have spent To drive the cold winter away.


Now winter nights enlarge The number of their hours, And clouds their storms discharge Upon the airy towers. Let now the chimneys blaze, And cups o'erflow with wine; Let well-tuned words amaze With harmony divine. Now yellow waxen lights Shall wait on honey love, While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights Sleep's leaden spells remove.

The time doth well dispense With lovers' long discourse; Much speech hath some defence, Though beauty no remorse. All do not all things well: Some, measures comely tread, Some, knotted riddles tell, Some, poems smoothly read. The summer hath his joys, And winter his delights; Though love and all his pleasures are but toys, They shorten tedious nights.

Thomas Campion.


To shorten winter's sadness, See where the nymphs with gladness Disguised all are coming, Right wantonly a-mumming. Fa la.

Whilst youthful sports are lasting, To feasting turn our fasting; With revels and with wassails Make grief and care our vassals. Fa la.

For youth it well beseemeth That pleasure he esteemeth; And sullen age is hated That mirth would have abated. Fa la.

Thomas Weelkes, A.D. 1597.


At Francis Allen's on the Christmas eve,— The game of forfeits done—the girls all kissed Beneath the sacred bush and past away,— The parson Holmes, the poet Everard Hall, The host, and I sat round the wassail-bowl, Then half-way ebbed: and there we held a talk, How all the old honor had from Christmas gone, Or gone, or dwindled down to some odd games In some odd nooks like this; till I, tired out With cutting eights that day upon the pond, Where, three times slipping from the outer edge, I bumped the ice into three several stars, Fell in a doze; and, half-awake, I heard The parson taking wide and wider sweeps, Now harping on the church-commissioners, Now hawking at geology and schism; Until I woke, and found him settled down Upon the general decay of faith Right through the world; "at home was little left, And none abroad; there was no anchor, none, To hold by." Francis, laughing, clapt his hand On Everard's shoulder with, "I hold by him." "And I," quoth Everard, "by the wassail-bowl." "Why, yes," I said, "we knew your gift that way At college; but another which you had, I mean of verse (for so we held it then), What came of that?" "You know," said Frank, "he burnt His epic, his King Arthur, some twelve books,"— And then to me demanding why? "Oh, sir, He thought that nothing new was said, or else Something so said 'twas nothing—that a truth Looks freshest in the fashion of the day: God knows, he has a mint of reasons: ask. It pleased me well enough." "Nay, nay," said Hall, "Why take the style of those heroic times? For nature brings not back the mastodon, Nor we those times; and why should any man Remodel models? These twelve books of mine Were faint Homeric echoes, nothing-worth, Mere chaff and draff, much better burnt." "But I," Said Francis, "picked the eleventh from this hearth, And have it: keep a thing, its use will come. I hoard it as a sugar-plum for Holmes." He laughed, and I, though sleepy, like a horse That hears the corn-bin open, pricked my ears; For I remembered Everard's college fame When we were freshmen: then, at my request, He brought it; and the poet, little urged, But, with some prelude of disparagement, Read, mouthing out his hollow oes and aes, Deep-chested music, and to this result:


So all day long the noise of battle rolled Among the mountains by the winter sea; Until King Arthur's table, man by man, Had fallen in Lyonesse about their Lord, King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep, The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him, Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights, And bore him to a chapel nigh the field, A broken chancel with a broken cross, That stood on a dark strait of barren land. On one side lay the ocean, and on one Lay a great water, and the moon was full. Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: "The sequel of to-day unsolders all The goodliest fellowship of famous knights Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep They sleep—the men I loved. I think that we Shall nevermore, at any future time, Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds, Walking about the gardens and the halls Of Camelot, as in the days that were. I perish by this people which I made,— Tho' Merlin sware that I should come again To rule once more,—but let what will be, be, I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm That without help I cannot last till morn. Thou, therefore, take my brand, Excalibur, Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how In those old days, one summer noon, an arm Rose up from out the bosom of the lake, Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, Holding the sword—and how I rowed across And took it, and have worn it, like a king: And, whensoever I am sung or told In after time, this also shall be known: But now delay not: take Excalibur And fling him far into the middle mere: Watch what thou seest, and lightly bring me word." To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere: "It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus, Aidless, alone, and smitten through the helm. A little thing may harm a wounded man, Yet I thy hest will all perform at full, Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word." So saying, from the ruined shrine he stept And in the moon athwart the place of tombs, Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men, Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down By zigzag paths and juts of pointed rock, Came on the shining levels of the lake. There drew he forth the brand Excalibur, And o'er him, drawing it, the winter moon Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt: For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks, Myriads of topaz-lights and jacinth-work Of subtlest jewelry. He gazed so long That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood, This way and that dividing the swift mind, In act to throw: but at the last it seemed Better to leave Excalibur concealed There in the many-knotted water-flags That whistled stiff and dry about the marge. So strode he back slow to the wounded King. Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: "Hast thou performed my mission which I gave? What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?" And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: "I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, And the wild water lapping on the crag." To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale: "Thou hast betrayed thy nature and thy name, Not rendering true answer, as beseemed Thy fealty, nor like a noble knight: For surer sign had followed, either hand, Or voice, or else a motion of the mere. This is a shameful thing for men to lie. Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing I bad thee, watch, and lightly bring me word." Then went Sir Bedivere the second time Across the ridge and paced beside the mere, Counting the dewy pebbles, fixed in thought; But when he saw the wonder of the hilt, How curiously and strangely chased, he smote His palms together, and he cried aloud, "And if, indeed, I cast the brand away, Surely a precious thing, one worthy note, Should thus be lost forever from the earth, Which might have pleased the eyes of many men. What good should follow this, if this were done? What harm, undone? deep harm to disobey, Seeing obedience is the bond of rule. Were it well to obey then, if a king demand An act unprofitable against himself?"

* * * * *

So spake he, clouded with his own conceit, And hid Excalibur the second time, And so strode back slow to the wounded King. Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily: "What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?" And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: "I heard the water lapping on the crag, And the long ripple washing in the reeds." To whom replied King Arthur much in wrath: "Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me! Authority forgets a dying king, Laid widowed of the power of his eye That bowed the will. I see thee what thou art; For thou, the latest left of all my knights, In whom should meet the offices of all, Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt; Either from lust of gold, or like a girl Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes. Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice, And the third time may prosper, get thee hence; But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur, I will arise and slay thee with my hands." Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere and ran, And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged Among the bulrush-beds, and clutched the sword And strongly wheeled and threw it. The great brand Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon, And flashing round and round, and whirled in an arch, Shot like a streamer of the northern morn, Seen where the moving isles of winter shock By night, with noises of the northern sea, So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur: But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, And caught him by the hilt and brandished him Three times, and drew him under in the mere. And lightly went the other to the King.

* * * * *

Here ended Hall, and our last light, that long Had winked, and threatened darkness, flared and fell: At which the Parson, sent to sleep with sound, And waked with silence, grunted "Good!" but we Sat rapt: it was the tone with which he read— Perhaps some modern touches here and there Redeemed it from the charge of nothingness— Or else we loved the man, and prized his work; I know not; but we sitting as I said, The cock crew loud; as at that time of year The lusty bird takes every hour for dawn: Then Francis, muttering, like a man ill-used, "There now—that's nothing!" drew a little back, And drove his heel into the smouldered log, That sent a blast of sparkles up the flue: And so to bed; where yet in sleep I seemed To sail with Arthur under looming shores, Point after point; till on to dawn, when dreams Begin to feel the truth and stir of day, To me, methought, who waited with a crowd, Then came a bark that, blowing forward, bore King Arthur, like a modern gentleman Of stateliest port; and all the people cried, "Arthur is come again: he cannot die." Then those that stood upon the hills behind Repeated "Come again, and thrice as fair;" And, further inland, voices echoed, "Come With all good things, and war shall be no more." At this a hundred bells began to peal, That with the sound I woke, and heard indeed The clear church-bells ring in the Christmas morn.

Lord Tennyson.


For sports, for pageantries, and plays, Thou hast thy eves and holidays On which the young men and maids meet To exercise their dancing feet, Tripping the comely country-round, With daffodils and daisies crowned. Thy wakes, thy quintals, here thou hast, Thy May-poles, too, with garlands graced, Thy morris-dance, thy Whitsun-ale, Thy shearing-feast, which never fail, Thy harvest home, thy wassail-bowl, That's tossed up after fox-i'-th'-hole, Thy mummeries, thy Twelfthtide kings And queens, thy Christmas revellings, Thy nut-brown mirth, thy russet wit, And no man pays too dear for it.

O happy life! if that their good The husbandmen but understood, Who all the day themselves do please And younglings with such sports as these, And, lying down, have naught t' affright Sweet sleep, that makes more short the night.

Robert Herrick.


Christmas comes! He comes, he comes, Ushered with a rain of plums; Hollies in the windows greet him; Schools come driving post to meet him; Gifts precede him, bells proclaim him, Every mouth delights to name him; Wet, and cold, and wind, and dark Make him but the warmer mark; And yet he comes not one-embodied, Universal's the blithe godhead, And in every festal house Presence hath ubiquitous. Curtains, those snug room-enfolders, Hang upon his million shoulders, And he has a million eyes Of fire, and eats a million pies, And is very merry and wise; Very wise and very merry, And loves a kiss beneath the berry. Then full many a shape hath he, All in said ubiquity: Now is he a green array, And now an "eve," and now a "day;" Now he's town gone out of town, And now a feast in civic gown, And now the pantomime and clown With a crack upon the crown, And all sorts of tumbles down; And then he's music in the night, And the money gotten by't: He's a man that can't write verses, Bringing some to ope your purses: He's a turkey, he's a goose, He's oranges unfit for use; He's a kiss that loves to grow Underneath the mistletoe; And he's forfeits, cards, and wassails, And a king and queen with vassals, All the "quizzes" of the time Drawn and quarter'd with a rhyme; And then, for their revival's sake, Lo! he's an enormous cake, With a sugar on the top, Seen before in many a shop, Where the boys could gaze forever, They think the cake so very clever. Then, some morning, in the lurch Leaving romps, he goes to church, Looking very grave and thankful, After which he's just as prankful. Now a saint, and now a sinner, But, above all, he's a dinner; He's a dinner, where you see Everybody's family; Beef, and pudding, and mince-pies, And little boys with laughing eyes, Whom their seniors ask arch questions, Feigning fears of indigestions As if they, forsooth, the old ones, Hadn't, privately, tenfold ones: He's a dinner and a fire, Heap'd beyond your heart's desire,— Heap'd with log, and bak'd with coals, Till it roasts your very souls, And your cheek the fire outstares, And you all push back your chairs, And the mirth becomes too great, And you all sit up too late, Nodding all with too much head, And so go off to too much bed.

O plethora of beef and bliss! Monkish feaster, sly of kiss! Southern soul in body Dutch! Glorious time of great Too-Much! Too much heat and too much noise, Too much babblement of boys; Too much eating, too much drinking, Too much ev'rything but thinking; Solely bent to laugh and stuff, And trample upon base Enough. Oh, right is thy instructive praise Of the wealth of Nature's ways! Right thy most unthrifty glee, And pious thy mince-piety! For, behold! great Nature's self Builds her no abstemious shelf, But provides (her love is such For all) her own great, good Too-Much,— Too much grass, and too much tree, Too much air, and land, and sea, Too much seed of fruit and flower, And fish, an unimagin'd dower! (In whose single roe shall be Life enough to stock the sea,— Endless ichthyophagy!) Ev'ry instant through the day Worlds of life are thrown away; Worlds of life, and worlds of pleasure, Not for lavishment of treasure, But because she's so immensely Rich, and loves us so intensely. She would have us, once for all, Wake at her benignant call, And all grow wise, and all lay down Strife, and jealousy, and frown, And, like the sons of one great mother, Share, and be blest, with one another.

Leigh Hunt.


Thrice holy ring, afar and wide, The merry bells this Christmas-tide; Afar and wide, through hushed snow, From ivied minster-portico, Sweet anthems swell to tell the tale Of that young babe the shepherds hail Sitting amid their nibbling flocks What time the Hallelujah shocks The drowsy earth, and Cherubim Break through the heaven with harp and hymn.

Belated birds sing tingling notes To warm apace their chilly throats, Or they, mayhap, have caught the story And pipe their part from branches hoary; While up aloft, his tempered beams The sun has poured in gentle streams, Sending o'er snowy hill and dell A pleasance to greet the Christmas bell! Now every yeoman starts abroad For holly green and the ivy-tod; Good folk to kirk are soon atrip Mellow with cheer and good-fellowship, And cosey chimneys, here and there Puff forth the sweets o' Christmas fare.

Ho! rosy wenches and merry men From over the hill and field and fen, Great store is here, the drifts between Of myrtle red-berried, and mistletoe green! Ho, Phyllis and Kate and bonny Nell Come hither, and buffet the goodmen well, An they gather not for hall and hearth, Fair bays to grace the evening mirth. Aye, laugh ye well! and echoed wide Your voices sing through the Christmas-tide, And wintry winds emblend their tones At the minster-eaves with the organ groans: The carols meet with laughter sweet In a gay embrace mid the drifting sleet.

Anon the weary sun's at rest, And clouds that hovered all day by, Like silver arras down the sky Enfold him—while the winds are whist— But not the Christmas jollity, For, little space, and wassail high Flows at the board; and hautboys sound The tripping dance and merry round. Here youths and maidens stand in row Kissing beneath the mistletoe; And many a tale of midnight rout O' Christmas-tide the woods about, Of faery meetings beneath the moon In wintry blast or summer swoon, Goes round the hearth, while all aglow The yule-log crackles the crane below.

Drink hael! good folk, by the chimney side, O sweet's the holy Christmas-tide! Drink hael! Drink hael! and pledge again: "Here's peace on earth, good-will to men!"

H. S. M.


When on the barn's thatch'd roof is seen The moss in tufts of liveliest green; When Roger to the wood pile goes, And, as he turns, his fingers blows; When all around is cold and drear, Be sure that Christmas-tide is near.

When up the garden walk in vain We seek for Flora's lovely train; When the sweet hawthorn bower is bare, And bleak and cheerless is the air; When all seems desolate around, Christmas advances o'er the ground.

When Tom at eve comes home from plough, And brings the mistletoe's green bough, With milk-white berries spotted o'er, And shakes it the sly maids before, Then hangs the trophy up on high, Be sure that Christmas-tide is nigh.

When Hal, the woodman, in his clogs, Bears home the huge unwieldly logs, That, hissing on the smould'ring fire, Flame out at last a quiv'ring spire; When in his hat the holly stands, Old Christmas musters up his bands.

When cluster'd round the fire at night, Old William talks of ghost and sprite, And, as a distant out-house gate Slams by the wind, they fearful wait, While some each shadowy nook explore, Then Christmas pauses at the door.

When Dick comes shiv'ring from the yard, And says the pond is frozen hard, While from his hat, all white with snow, The moisture, trickling, drops below, While carols sound, the night to cheer, Then Christmas and his train are here.

Edwin Lees.


When winter nights grow long, And winds without blow cold, We sit in a ring round the warm wood-fire, And listen to stories old! And we try to look grave, (as maids should be,) When the men bring in boughs of the Laurel-tree. O the Laurel, the evergreen tree! The poets have laurels, and why not we?

How pleasant, when night falls down And hides the wintry sun, To see them come in to the blazing fire, And know that their work is done; Whilst many bring in, with a laugh or rhyme, Green branches of Holly for Christmas time! O the Holly, the bright green Holly, It tells (like a tongue) that the times are jolly!

Sometimes—(in our grave house, Observe, this happeneth not;) But, at times, the evergreen laurel boughs And the holly are all forgot! And then! what then? why, the men laugh low And hang up a branch of the Mistletoe! O brave is the Laurel! and brave is the Holly! But the Mistletoe banisheth melancholy! Ah, nobody knows, nor ever shall know, What is done—under the Mistletoe.

Bryan Waller Proctor.



Three weeks before the day whereon was born the Lord of grace, And on the Thursday, boys and girls do run in every place, And bounce and beat at every door, with blows and lusty snaps, And cry the advent of the Lord, not born as yet, perhaps: And wishing to the neighbors all, that in the houses dwell, A happy year, and everything to spring and prosper well: Here have they pears, and plums, and pence; each man gives willingly, For these three nights are always thought unfortunate to be, Wherein they are afraid of sprites and cankered witches' spite, And dreadful devils, black and grim, that then have chiefest might.

In these same days, young, wanton girls that meet for marriage be, Do search to know the names of them that shall their husbands be. Four onions, five, or eight they take, and make in every one Such names as they do fancy most and best do think upon. Thus near the chimney then they set, and that same onion than The first doth sprout doth surely bear the name of their good man. Their husband's nature eke they seek to know and all his guise: When as the sun hath hid himself, and left the starry skies, Unto some woodstack do they go, and while they there do stand, Each one draws out a fagot stick, the next that comes to hand, Which if it straight and even be, and have no knots at all, A gentle husband then they think shall surely to them fall; But, if it foul and crooked be, and knotty here and there, A crabbed, churlish husband then they earnestly do fear.

Then comes the day wherein the Lord did bring his birth to pass, Whereas at midnight up they rise, and every man to Mass. This time so holy counted is, that divers earnestly Do think the waters all to wine are changed suddenly In that same hour that Christ himself was born and came to light, And unto water straight again transformed and altered quite. There are beside that mindfully the money still do watch That first to altar comes, which then they privily do snatch. The priests, lest other should it have, take oft the same away, Whereby they think throughout the year to have good luck in play, And not to lose: then straight at game till daylight do they strive To make some present proof how well their hallowed pence will thrive.

This done, a wooden child in clouts is on the altar set, About the which both boys and girls do dance and trimly get, And carols sing in praise of Christ, and for to help them here, The organs answer every verse with sweet and solemn cheer. The priests do roar aloud, and round about the parents stand, To see the sport, and with their voice do help them and their hand. Thus wont the Coribants perhaps upon the mountain Ide, The crying noise of Jupiter, new born, with song to hide, To dance about him round, and on their brazen pans to beat, Lest that his father, finding him, should him destroy and eat.

Then followeth Saint Stephen's Day, whereon doth every man His horses jaunt and course abroad, as swiftly as he can. Until they do extremely sweat, and then they let them blood, For this being done upon this day, they say doth do them good, And keeps them from all maladies and sickness through the year, As if that Stephen any time took charge of horses here. Next, John, the son of Zebedee, hath his appointed day, Who once, by cruel tyrant's will, constrained was, they say, Strong poison up to drink, therefore the Papists do believe That whoso puts their trust in him, no poison them can grieve. The wine beside that hallowed is, in worship of his name, The priests do give the people that bring money for the same. And after with the selfsame wine are little manchets[F] made, Against the boisterous winter storms, and sundry such like trade. The men upon this solemn day do take this holy wine, To make them strong, so do the maids to make them fair and fine.

Then comes the day that calls to mind the cruel Herod's strife, Who seeking Christ to kill, the King of everlasting life, Destroyed all the infants young, a beast unmerciless, And put to death all such as were of two years age or less. To them the sinful wretches cry and earnestly do pray To get them pardon for their faults, and wipe their sins away. The parents, when this day appears, do beat their children all Though nothing they deserve, and servants all to beating fall, And monks do whip each other well, or else their Prior great, Or Abbot mad, doth take in hand their breeches all to beat In worship of these Innocents, or rather, as we see, In honor of the cursed king that did this cruelty.

The next to this is New-Year's Day, whereon to every friend They costly presents in do bring and New-Year's gifts do send. These gifts the husband gives his wife, and father eke the child, And master on his men bestows the like, with favor mild, And good beginning of the year they wish and wish again, According to the ancient guise of heathen people vain. These eight days no man doth require his debts of any man, Their tables do they furnish out with all the meat they can: With marchpanes, tarts, and custards great they drink with staring eyes, They rout and revel, feed and feast as merry all as pies, As if they should at the entrance of this New Year have to die, Yet would they have their bellies full and ancient friends ally.

The Wise Men's day here followeth, who out from Persia far, Brought gifts and presents unto Christ, conducted by a star. The Papists do believe that these were kings, and so them call, And do affirm that of the same there were but three in all. Here sundry friends together come, and meet in company, And make a king amongst themselves by voice or destiny; Who, after princely guise, appoints his officers alway, Then unto feasting do they go, and long time after play: Upon their boards, in order thick, their dainty dishes stand, Till that their purses empty be and creditors at hand. Their children herein follow them, and choosing princes here, With pomp and great solemnity, they meet and make good cheer With money either got by stealth, or of their parents eft, That so they may be trained to know both riot here and theft. Then, also, every householder, to his ability, Doth make a mighty cake that may suffice his company: Herein a penny doth he put, before it comes to fire, This he divides according as his household doth require; And every piece distributeth, as round about they stand, Which in their names unto the poor is given out of hand. But whoso chanceth on the piece wherein the money lies Is counted king amongst them all, and is with shouts and cries Exalted to the heavens up, who, taking chalk in hand, Doth make a cross on every beam and rafters as they stand: Great force and power have these against all injuries and harms, Of cursed devils, sprites and bugs, of conjurings and charms, So much this king can do, so much the crosses bring to pass, Made by some servant, maid or child, or by some foolish ass!

Twice six nights then from Christmas they do count with diligence, Wherein each master in his house doth burn up frankincense: And on the table sets a loaf, when night approacheth near, Before the coals and frankincense to be perfumed there: First bowing down his head he stands, and nose, and ears, and eyes He smokes, and with his mouth receives the fume that doth arise; Whom followeth straight his wife, and doth the same full solemnly, And of their children every one, and all their family: Which doth preserve, they say, their teeth, and nose, and eyes, and ear From every kind of malady and sickness all the year. When every one received hath this odor great and small, Then one takes up the pan with coals, and frankincense and all. Another takes the loaf, whom all the rest do follow here, And round about the house they go, with torch or taper clear, That neither bread nor meat do want; nor witch with dreadful charm Have power to hurt their children, or to do their cattle harm. There are that three nights only do perform this foolish gear, To this intent, and think themselves in safety all the year. To Christ dare none commit himself. And in these days beside They judge what weather all the year shall happen and betide: Ascribing to each day a month, and at this present time The youth in every place do flock, and all apparelled fine, With pipers through the streets they run, and sing at every door In commendation of the man, rewarded well therefore, Which on themselves they do bestow, or on the church as though The people were not plagued with rogues and begging friars enow. There cities are where boys and girls together still do run About the streets with like as soon as night begins to come, And bring abroad their wassail-bowls, who well rewarded be With cakes, and cheese, and great good cheer, and money plenteously.

From the German of Thos. Kirchmaier, A.D. 1553.


[F] White bread.


Father John Burges, Necessity urges My woeful cry To Sir Robert Pie: And that he will venture To send my debenture. Tell him his Ben Knew the time when He loved the Muses; Though now he refuses To take apprehension Of a year's pension, And more is behind; Put him in mind Christmas is near, And neither good cheer, Mirth, fooling, nor wit, Nor any least fit Of gambol or sport Will come to the court If there be no money, No plover or cony Will come to the table, Or wine to enable The muse, or the poet, The parish will know it Nor any quick warming-pan help him to bed; If the 'Chequer be empty, so will be his head.

Ben Jonson.


No news of navies burnt at sea, No noise of late-spawned Tityries, No closet plot or open vent That frights men with a Parliament: No new device or late-found trick, To read by the stars the kingdom's sick; No gin to catch the State, or wring The free-born nostrils of the king, We send to you, but here a jolly Verse crowned with ivy and with holly; That tells of winter's tales and mirth That milkmaids make about the hearth, Of Christmas sports, the wassail-bowl, That's tost up after fox-i'-th'-hole; Of Blindman-buff, and of the care That young men have to shoe the mare; Of Twelve-tide cake, of peas and beans, Wherewith ye make those merry scenes, When as ye choose your king and queen, And cry out: Hey, for our town green! Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use Husbands and wives by streaks to choose; Of crackling laurel, which foresounds A plenteous harvest to your grounds; Of these and such like things, for shift, We send instead of New-Year's gift: Read then, and when your faces shine With buxom meat and cap'ring wine, Remember us in cups full-crowned, And let our city-health go round, Quite through the young maids and the men To the ninth number, if not ten; Until the fired chestnuts leap For joy to see the fruits ye reap From the plump chalice and the cup That tempts till it be tossed up. Then, as ye sit about your embers, Call not to mind those fled Decembers; But think on these that are to appear As daughters to the instant year; Sit crowned with rose-buds, and carouse, Till Liber Pater twirls the house About your ears; and lay upon The year, your cares, that's fled and gone. And let the russet swains the plough And harrow hang up resting now; And to the bagpipe all address Till sleep takes place of weariness; And thus, throughout, with Christmas plays Frolic the full twelve holydays.

Robert Herrick.


Let others look for pearl and gold Tissues, or tabbies manifold; One only lock of that sweet hay Whereon the Blessed Baby lay, Or one poor swaddling-clout, shall be The richest New-Year's gift to me.

Robert Herrick.


Come follow, follow me, Those that good fellows be, Into the buttery Our manhood for to try; The master keeps a bounteous house, And gives leave freely to carouse.

Then wherefore should we fear, Seeing here is store of cheer? It shows but cowardice At this time to be nice. Then boldly draw your blades and fight, For we shall have a merry night.

When we have done this fray, Then we will go to play At cards or else at dice, And be rich in a trice; Then let the knaves go round apace, I hope each time to have an ace.

Come, maids, let's want no beer After our Christmas cheer, And I will duly crave Good husbands you may have, And that you may good houses keep, When we may drink carouses deep.

And when that's spent the day We'll Christmas gambols play, At hot cockles beside And then go to all-hide, With many other pretty toys, Men, women, youths, maids, girls, and boys.

Come, let's dance round the hall, And let's for liquor call; Put apples in the fire, Sweet maids, I you desire; And let a bowl be spiced well Of happy stuff that doth excel.

Twelve days we now have spent In mirth and merriment, And daintily did fare, For which we took no care: But now I sadly call to mind What days of sorrow are behind.

We must leave off to play, To-morrow's working-day; According to each calling Each man must now be falling, And ply his business all the year Next Christmas for to make good cheer.

Now of my master kind Good welcome I did find, And of my loving mistress This merry time of Christmas; For which to them great thanks I give, God grant they long together live.


Sweep the ingle, froth the beer, Tiptoe on till chanticleer, Loose the laugh, dry the tear,— Crack the drums When Christmas comes!


Mark well my heavy, doleful tale, For Twelfth-day now is come, And now I must no longer sing, And say no words but mum; For I perforce must take my leave Of all my dainty cheer, Plum-porridge, roast-beef, and minced-pies, My strong ale and my beer.

Kind-hearted Christmas, now adieu, For I with thee must part, And for to take my leave of thee Doth grieve me at the heart; Thou wert an ancient housekeeper, And mirth with meat didst keep, But thou art going out of town, Which makes me for to weep.

God knoweth whether I again Thy merry face shall see, Which to good fellows and the poor That was so frank and free. Thou lovedst pastime with thy heart, And eke good company; Pray hold me up for fear I swoon, For I am like to die.

Come, butler, fill a brimmer up To cheer my fainting heart, That to old Christmas I may drink Before he doth depart; And let each one that's in this room With me likewise condole, And for to cheer their spirits sad Let each one drink a bowl.

And when the same it hath gone round Then fall unto your cheer, For you do know that Christmas time It comes but once a year. But this good draught which I have drunk Hath comforted my heart, For I was very fearful that My stomach would depart.

Thanks to my master and my dame That doth such cheer afford; God bless them, that each Christmas they May furnish thus their board. My stomach having come to me, I mean to have a bout, Intending to eat most heartily; Good friends, I do not flout.

New Christmas Carols, A.D. 1642.


Now, now the mirth comes With the cake full of plums, Where bean's the king of the sport here; Beside, we must know The pea also Must revel as queen in the court here.

Begin then to choose, This night, as ye use, Who shall for the present delight here; Be a king by the lot, And who shall not Be Twelve-day queen for the night here!

Which known, let us make Joy-sops with the cake; And let not a man then be seen here, Who unurged will not drink, To the base from the brink, A health to the king and the queen here!

Next crown the bowl full With gentle lamb's wool, And sugar, nutmeg, and ginger, With store of ale, too; And this ye must do To make the wassail a swinger.

Give then to the king And queen, wassailing, And though with ale ye be wet here, Yet part ye from hence As free from offence As when ye innocent met here

Robert Herrick.


Down with the rosemary and bays, Down with the mistletoe; Instead of holly, now upraise The greener box for show.

The holly hitherto did sway; Let box now domineer Until the dancing Easter day Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box, which now hath grace Your houses to renew, Grown old, surrender must his place Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in, And many flowers beside, Both of a fresh and fragrant kin, To honor Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents, With cooler oaken boughs, Come in for comely ornaments, To readorn the house. Thus times do shift, each thing his turn does hold; New things succeed as former things grow old.

Robert Herrick.


Down with the rosemary, and so Down with the bays and mistletoe; Down with the holly, ivy, all Wherewith ye dressed the Christmas hall, That so the superstitious find No one last branch there left behind; For, look! how many leaves there be Neglected there, maids, trust to me So many goblins you shall see.

Robert Herrick.


Kindle the Christmas brand, and then Till sunset let it burn, Which quenched, then lay it up again Till Christmas next return.

Part must be kept, wherewith to teend The Christmas log next year, And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend Can do no mischief there.

Robert Herrick.


End now the white-loaf and the pie, And let all sports with Christmas die.

Robert Herrick.


Partly work and partly play Ye must on St. Distaff's day; From the plough soon free your team, Then come home and fodder them; If the maids a-spinning go, Burn the flax and fire the tow; Scorch their plackets, but beware That ye singe no maiden-hair; Bring in pails of water then, Let the maids bewash the men; Give St. Distaff all the right, Then bid Christmas sport good-night, And next morrow every one To his own vocation.

Robert Herrick.

The Shepherds.

"His place of birth a solemn angel tells To simple shepherds keeping watch by night."



As I rode out this enderes night, Of three ioli sheppardes I saw a sight, And all abowte there fold a star shone bright; They sang, terli, terlow; So mereli the sheppardes their pipes can blow.

Doune from heaven, from heaven so hie, Of angeles ther came a great companie, With mirthe, and joy, and great solemnitye, The sange, terly, terlow; So mereli the sheppardes their pipes can blow.

Coventry Mysteries.


Tyrle, Tyrle, so Merrily the Shepherds began to Blow.

About the field they piped full right, Even about the midst of the night; Adown from heaven they saw come a light, Tyrle, tyrle.

Of angels there came a company With merry songs and melody, The shepherds anon gan them espy, Tyrle, tyrle.

Gloria in excelsis the angels sung, And said how peace was present among, To every man that to the faith would 'long, Tyrle, tyrle.

The shepherds hied them to Bethlehem To see that blessed sun's beam; And there they found that glorious stream, Tyrle, tyrle.

Now pray we to that meek Child, And to his mother that is so mild, The which was never defiled, Tyrle, tyrle.

That we may come unto his bliss, Where joy shall never miss; That we may sing in Paradise, Tyrle, tyrle.

I pray you all that be here For to sing and make good cheer, In the worship of God this year, Tyrle, tyrle.

Wright's Songs and Carols.


The first Nowell the Angel did say Was to three poor Shepherds in the fields as they lay; In fields where they lay keeping their sheep, In a cold winter's night that was so deep. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a Star Shining in the East beyond them far; And to the earth it gave great light, And so it continued both day and night. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

And by the light of that same Star Three Wise Men came from country far; To seek for a King was their intent, And to follow the Star wherever it went. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

The Star drew nigh to the northwest, O'er Bethlehem it took its rest, And there it did both stop and stay Right over the place where Jesus lay. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

Then did they know assuredly Within that house the King did lie: One enter'd in then for to see, And found the Babe in poverty. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

Then enter'd in those Wise Men three Most reverently upon their knee, And offer'd there in his presence Both gold, and myrrh, and frankincense. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

Between an ox-stall and an ass This Child truly there born he was; For want of clothing they did him lay All in the manger among the hay. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

Then let us all with one accord Sing praises to our Heavenly Lord, That hath made heaven and earth of naught, And with his blood mankind hath bought. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.

If we in our time shall do well, We shall be free from death and hell; For God hath prepared for us all A resting-place in general. Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel.


In Bethlehem, that noble place, As by the Prophet said it was, Of the Virgin Mary, filled with grace. Salvator mundi natus est. Be we merry in this feast, In quo Salvator natus est.

On Christmas night an Angel told The shepherds watching by their fold, In Bethlehem, full nigh the wold, "Salvator mundi natus est." Be we merry in this feast, In quo Salvator natus est.

The shepherds were encompassed right, About them shone a glorious light, "Dread ye naught," said the Angel bright, "Salvator mundi natus est." Be we merry in this feast, In quo Salvator natus est.

"No cause have ye to be afraid, For why? this day is Jesus laid On Mary's lap, that gentle maid: Salvator mundi natus est. Be we merry in this feast, In quo Salvator natus est.

"And thus in faith find him ye shall Laid poorly in an ox's stall." The shepherds then lauded God all, Quia Salvator natus est. Be we merry in this feast, In quo Salvator natus est.

Christmas Carolles, A.D. 1550.


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 Bethl'em 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?

Edward Bolton.


Sweet, harmless livers! on whose holy leisure Waits innocence and pleasure; Whose leaders to those pastures and clear springs Were patriarchs, saints, and kings; How happened it that in the dead of night You only saw true light, While Palestine was fast asleep and lay Without one thought of day? Was it because those first and blessed swains Were pilgrims on those plains When they received the promise, for which now 'Twas there first shown to you? 'Tis true he loves that dust whereon they go That serve him here below, And therefore might for memory of those His love then first disclose; But wretched Salem, once his love, must now No voice nor vision know; Her stately piles with all their height and pride Now languished and died, And Bethl'em's humble cots above them stept While all her seers slept; Her cedar fir, hewed stones, and gold were all Polluted through their fall; And those once sacred mansions were now Mere emptiness and show. This made the angel call at reeds and thatch, Yet where the shepherds watch, And God's own lodging, though he could not lack, To be a common rack. No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury In those thin cells could lie; Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots, Which never harbored plots; Only content and love and humble joys Lived there without all noise; Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day Did in their bosoms play: As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook, What springs or shades to look; But that was all; and now with gladsome care They for the town prepare; They leave their flock, and in a busy talk All towards Bethl'em walk, To seek their soul's great Shepherd who was come To bring all stragglers home; Where now they find him out, and, taught before, The Lamb of God adore, That Lamb, whose days great kings and prophets wished And longed to see, but missed. The first light they beheld was bright and gay, And turned their night to day; But to this later light they saw in him, Their day was dark and dim.

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