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2006-09-08 11:36

    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 #CCCCFF 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 a universal peace through sea and land.

    No war or battle's sound

    Was heard the world around:

    The idle spear and shield were high uphung;

    The hookèd chariot stood

    Unstain'd with hostile blood;

    The trumpet spake not to the armèd throng;

    And kings sat still with awful eye

    As if they surely knew their sovran 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 oceàn—

    Who now hath quite forgot to rave

    While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmèd 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 axle-tree could bear.

    The shepherds on the lawn

    Or ere the point of dawn

    Sate simply chatting in a rustic row;

    Full little thought they than

    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 finger strook—

    Divinely-warbled voice

    Answering the stringèd 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 shamefaced night array'd;

    The helmèd 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 bass of heaven's deep organ blow;

    And with your ninefold harmony

    Make up full consort 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 yet lies in smiling infancy

    That on the bitter cross

    Must redeem our loss;

    So both Himself and us to glorify:

    Yet first to those 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 outbrake:

    The aged Earth aghast

    With terror of that blast

    Shall from the surface to the centre shake

    When at the world's last sessiòn

    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 straiter limits bound

    Not half so far casts his usurpèd 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 archèd roof in words deceiving.

    Apollo from his shrine

    Can no more divine

    With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving:

    No nightly trance or breathèd 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 Lemurès 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 Baalim

    Forsake their temples dim

    With that twice-batter'd god of Palestine;

    And moonèd 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 #CCCCFFest 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;

    Nought but profoundest Hell can be his shroud;

    In vain with timbrell'd anthems dark

    The sable-stolèd sorcerers bear his worshipt ark.

    He feels from Juda's land

    The dreaded Infant's hand;

    The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;

    Nor all the gods beside

    Longer dare abide

    Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:

    Our Babe to show His Godhead true

    Can in His swaddling bands control the damnèd 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 blue-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-teemèdstar

    Hath fix'd her polish'd car

    Her sleeping Lord with hand-maid lamp attending:

    And all about the courtly stable

    Bright-harness'd Angels sit in order serviceable.

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