Christmas atmosphere and creed

We must make it clear, then, to those that feel the Nativity as an atmosphere and not a creed that this may at least be demanded of them — that they have the atmosphere. It is quite true that Dickens and the men of a manlier England would have said that they praised the spirit of Christmas and not the letter. But when they praised the spirit, they had it. It was the unmistakable old festivity of Dryden or Chaucer; it smelt and tasted of Christendom. Dickens would have made no doctrinal limitations in it; but there were intrinsic limitations in the nature of the thing. . . We must at least keep either the body or the soul of Christmas; either the central doctrine or else the exact physical observances. If we do not keep either one or the other, it is utterly idle to talk about a Higher Christmas or a New Christmas or an Improved Christmas; there is no sense in using the title at all when no vestige of the thing is left. We must simply say to ourselves, as cheerfully as we may, that there is one colour or smell or virtue the less in the universe.

The Illustrated London News (7 January 1911).

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Christmas Carol

At Bethlehem, that city blest
Did Our Lady take her rest
Mary, fair and undefiled
There conceived and bore a Child
\,\, Mater sanctissima
\,\, Ora pro nobis

And Saint Joseph, when he saw
Christ asleep upon the straw,
In great love he worshipped there
Mary and the Child she bare
\,\, Ave plena gratia
\,\, Ave Rosa Mundi

And the beasts that were around
Knelt upon the holy ground
And in dumb amazement they
Praised the Lord on Christmas Day
\,\, Omnia O Opera
\,\, Benedicite Dominum

But the ox that kneeled down
Nearest to the manger-throne,
When Our Lady stroked his head,
He the Holy Credo said
\,\, “Ex Maria Virgine
\,\, Et est Homo Factus”

And the shepherds that had heard
Of the coming of the Word
From the mouth of Gabriel
On their knees before Him fell
\,\, Sunt beati pauperi
\,\, Quorum Dei Regnum

Then the kings from out the east
Started to the Birthday feast
Came and knelt, and, as is told,
Brought Him incense, myrrh, and gold
\,\, Ecce Deus de Deo
\,\, Est et Lux de Luce

So God’s Mother sweetly smiled
Lifting up her wondrous Child
And for ever and for aye
Blessed the world on Christmas Day
\,\, Nam et nobis hodie
\,\, Ec est Infans natus

— (c.1896-98).

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Regina Angelorum

Our Lady went into a strange country,
\, Our Lady, for she was ours,
And had run on the little hills behind the houses
\, And pulled small flowers;
But she rose up and went into a strange country
\, With strange thrones and powers.

And there were giants in the land she walked in,
\, Tall as their toppling towns,
With heads so high in heaven, the constellations
\, Served them for crowns;
And their feet might have forded like a brook the abysses
\, Where Babel drowns.

They were girt about with the wings of morning and evening,
\, Furled and unfurled,
Round the speckled sky where our small spinning planet
\, Like a top is twirled;
And the swords they waved were the unending comets
\, That shall end the world.

And moving in innocence and in accident,
\, She turned the face
That none has ever looked on without loving
\, On the Lords of Space;
And one hailed her with her name in our own country
\, That is full of grace.

Our Lady went into a strange country
\, And they crowned her queen,
For she needed never to be stayed or questioned
\, But only seen;
And they were broken down under unbearable beauty
\, As we have been.

But ever she walked till away in the last high places,
\, One great light shone
From the pillared throne of the king of all the country
\, Who sat thereon;
And she cried aloud as she cried under the gibbet
\, For she saw her son.

Our Lady wears a crown in a strange country,
\, The crown he gave,
But she has not forgotten to call to her old companions
\, To call and crave;
And to hear her calling a man might arise and thunder
\, On the doors of the grave.

— (1925).

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

“One very vile habit”

There is one very vile habit that the pedants have, and that is explaining to a man why he does a thing when the man himself can explain quite well — and quite differently.  If I go down on all-fours to find sixpence, it annoys me to be told by a passing biologist that I am really doing it because my remote ancestors were quadrupeds.  I concede that he knows all about biology, or even a great deal about my ancestors; but I know he is wrong, because he does not know about the sixpence.  If I climb a tree after a stray cat, I am unconvinced when a stray anthropologist tells me that I am doing it because I am essentially arboreal and barbaric.  I happen to know why I am doing it; and I know it is because I am amiable and somewhat over-civilised.  Scientists will talk to a man on general guess-work about things that they know no more about than about his pocket-money or his pet cat.  Religion is one of them, and all the festivals and formalities that are rooted in religion.  Thus a man will tell me that in keeping Christmas I am not keeping a Christmas feast, but a pagan feast.  This is exactly as if he told me that I was not feeling furiously angry, but only a little sad.  I know how I am feeling all right; and why I am feeling it.  I know this in the case of cats, sixpences, anger, and Christmas Day.  When a learned man tells me that on the 25th of December I am really astronomically worshipping the sun, I answer that I am not.  I am practicing a particular personal religion, the pleasures of which (right or wrong) are not in the least astronomical.  If he says that the cult of Christianity and the cult of Apollo are the same, I answer that they are utterly different; and I ought to know for I have held both of them.  I believed in Apollo when I was quite little; and I believe in Christmas now that I am very, very big.

Illustrated London News, 1 January 1910.

Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 8:21 am  Comments (2)