The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Children's Song Of The Nativity

Alternate Title: How Far Is It To Bethlehem

Words by Frances Alice (nee Blogg) Chesterton (1875-1938)

Music: "Stowey," English traditional, 16-18th Century

How far is it to Bethlehem?
    Not very far.
Shall we find the stable room
    Lit by a star?

Can we see the little child,
    Is he within?
If we lift the wooden latch
    May we go in?

May we stroke the creatures there,
    Ox, ass, or sheep?
May we peep like them and see
    Jesus asleep?

If we touch his tiny hand
    Will he awake?
Will he know we've come so far
    Just for his sake?

Great kings have precious gifts,
    And we have naught,
Little smiles and little tears
    Are all we brought.

For all weary children
    Mary must weep.
Here, on his bed of straw
    Sleep, children, sleep.

God in his mother's arms,
    Babes in the byre,
Sleep, as they sleep who find
    Their heart's desire.

Note:

    This song also appears in Percy Dearmer, et al., eds., The Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1928), #142. The tune "Stowey" also appears in Percy Dearmer, et al., eds., Songs of Praise (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931), #377. It is there set to the lyric "When a knight won his spurs."

    An instrumental version of this song was performed by Zola Van on her CD Carol: A Christmas Journey (2003). The CD is available at Amazon.com, emusic.com, and elsewhere. It can also be heard at the Rhapsody site, http://www.rhapsody.com/zolavan/carolachristmasjourney.

    Frances Chesterton also wrote the following Christmas-themed pieces:

  • Here Is The Little Door. Date unknown. (poem)

  • A Lullaby Carol. 1926. (poem and song with music by Geoffrey Shaw; first line: “ Rap softly on the door, then open it wide”)

  • The Shepherds Found Thee by Night. 1938. (poem and song with music by Geoffrey Shaw)

  • The Christmas Gift (short play)

    Frances was the wife of Gilbert Keith (G. K.) Chesterton (1874-1936), the noted English author. Concerning Frances teaching Sunday School to a group “of little Devils”, G. K. wrote that when the children look up, “ ... they will see the most glorious and noble lady that ever lived ... with a halo of hair and great heavenly eyes that seem to make the good at the heart of things almost too terribly simple and naked for the sons of flesh ....” Source: Maisie Ward, “Gilbert Keith Chesterton.” New York: Sheed & Ward, 1943. Project Gutenberg eBook #18707, http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/18707.

Elsewhere, he wrote about her:

God made thee mightily, my love,
He stretched his hands out of his rest
And lit the star of east and west
Brooding o'er darkness like a dove.
God made thee mightily, my love.

God made thee patiently, my sweet,
Out of all stars he chose a star
He made it red with sunset bar
And green with greeting for thy feet.
God made thee mightily, my sweet.

Source: The Blog of the American Chesterton Society, http://americanchestertonsociety.blogspot.com/search/label/Frances

For more about G. K. Chesterton, see The American Chesterton Society, http://www.chesterton.org/

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