The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Night of Nights

For Christmas

Words: Jean Ingelow

Music: Not Stated

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of "Poems by Jean Ingelow," In Two Volumes, Volume II. (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1896)

"Let us now go even unto Bethlehem."

O Night of nights! O night
  Desired of man so long!
The ancient heavens fled forth in light
  To sing thee thy new song;
And shooting down the steep,
  To shepherd folk of old,
An angel, while they watch'd their sheep,
  Set foot beside the fold.

Lo! while as like to die
  Of that keen light he shed,
They look'd on his pure majesty,
  Amazed, and sore bestead;
Lo! while with words of cheer
  He bade their trembling cease,
The flocks of God swept sweetly near,
  And sang to them of peace.

All on the hillside grass
  That fulgent radiance fell,
So close those innocents did pass,
  Their words were heard right well;
Among the sheep, their wings
  Some folding, walk'd the sod
An order'd throng of shining things,
  White, with the smile of God.

The waits of heaven to hear,
  Oh! what it must have been!
Think, Christian people, think, and fear
  For cold hearts, for unclean;
Think how the times go by,
  How love and longing fail,
Think how we live and how we die,
  As this were but a tale.

O tender tale of old,
  Live in thy dear renown;
God's smile was in the dark, behold
  That way His hosts came down;
Light up, great God, Thy Word,
  Make the blest meaning strong,
As if our ears, indeed, had heard
  The glory of their song.

It was so far away,
  But Thou could'st make it near,
And all its living might display
  And cry to it, "Be here,"
Here, in th' unresting town,
  As once remote to them,
Who heard it when the heavens came down,
  On pastoral Bethlehem.

It was so long ago,
  But God can make it _now_,
And as with that sweet overflow,
  Our empty hearts endow;
Take, Lord, those words outworn,
  O! make them new for aye,
Speak--"Unto you a child is born,"

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