“All hail!” the bells of Christmas rang, “All hail!” the monks at Christmas sang, The merry monks who kept with cheer The gladdest day of all their year. But still apart, unmoved thereat, A pious elder brother sat Silent, in his accustomed place, With God’s sweet peace upon his face. “Why sitt’st thou thus?” his brethren cried, “It is the blessed Christmas-tide; The Christmas lights are all aglow, The sacred lilies bud and blow. “Above our heads the joy-bells ring, Without the happy children sing, And all God’s creatures hail the morn On which the holy Christ was born. “Rejoice with us; no more rebuke Our gladness with thy quiet look.” The gray monk answered, “Keep, I pray, Even as ye list, the Lord’s birthday. “Let heathen Yule fires flicker red Where thronged refectory feasts are spread; With mystery-play and masque and mime And wait-songs speed the holy time! “The blindest faith may haply save; The Lord accepts the things we have; And reverence, howsoe’er it strays, May find at last the shining ways. “They needs must grope who cannot see, The blade before the ear must be; As ye are feeling I have felt, And where ye dwell I too have dwelt. “But now, beyond the things of sense, Beyond occasions and events, I know, through God’s exceeding grace, Release from form and time and space. “I listen, from no mortal tongue, To hear the song the angels sung; And wait within myself to know The Christmas lilies bud and blow. “The outward symbols disappear From him whose inward sight is clear; And small must be the choice of days To him who fills them all with praise! “Keep while you need it, brothers mine, With honest seal your Christmas sign, But judge not him who every morn Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born!”
(A fortune cookie)
The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key, 1814
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
On Sept. 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of Washington, DC. The release was secured, but Key was detained on ship overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore. In the morning, he was so delighted to see the American flag still flying over the fort that he began a poem to commemorate the occasion. First published under the title “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” the poem soon attained wide popularity as sung to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The origin of this tune is obscure, but it may have been written by John Stafford Smith, a British composer born in 1750. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially made the national anthem by Congress in 1931, although it already had been adopted as such by the army and the navy.
Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis A frosty Christmas Eve when the stars were shining Fared I forth alone where westward falls the hill, And from many a village in the water’d valley Distant music reach’d me peals of bells aringing: The constellated sounds ran sprinkling on earth’s floor As the dark vault above with stars was spangled o’er. Then sped my thoughts to keep that first Christmas of all When the shepherds watching by their folds ere the dawn Heard music in the fields and marveling could not tell Whether it were angels or the bright stars singing. Now blessed be the tow’rs that crown England so fair That stand up strong in prayer unto God for our souls Blessed be their founders (said I) an’ our country folk Who are ringing for Christ in the belfries to-night With arms lifted to clutch the rattling ropes that race Into the dark above and the mad romping din. But to me heard afar it was starry music Angels’ song, comforting as the comfort of Christ When he spake tenderly to his sorrowful flock: The old words came to me by the riches of time Mellow’d and transfigured as I stood on the hill Heark’ning in the aspect of th’ eternal silence.
So now is come our joyful feast, Let every man be jolly; Each room with ivy leaves is dressed, 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’ chimnies smoke, And Christmas blocks 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 it 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 aboundeth. The country-folk 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 Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn, And all his best apparel; Brisk Nell 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 errands; 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 roisters they do play, Drab and dice their land 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 others’ 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 laughters sound, Anon they’ll think the house goes round; For they the cellar’s depths 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-hoe, And twenty other gameboys moe; 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 we thus inspired sing, Let all the streets with echoes ring; Woods, and hills, and everything Bear witness we are merry.
(A Christmas Circular Letter)