The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The First Roman Christmas

Alfred H. Domett

Source: Harrison S. Morris, ed., In The Yule-Log Glow--Book 3; Christmas Poems from 'round the World. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1900, pp. 23-24. Project Gutenberg eText # 20586.

It was the calm and silent night!
Seven hundred years and fifty-three
Had Rome been growing up to might,
And now was queen of land and sea.
No sound was heard of clashing wars,
Peace brooded o'er the hushed domain;
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
Held undisturbed their ancient reign,
In the solemn midnight
Centuries ago.

'Twas in the calm and silent night!
The senator of haughty Rome
Impatient urged his chariot's flight,
From lonely revel rolling home.
Triumphal arches, gleaming, swell
His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;
What recked the Roman what befell
A paltry province far away
In the solemn midnight
Centuries ago?

Within that province far away
Went plodding home a weary boor;
A streak of light before him lay,
Fallen through a half-shut stable-door,
Across his path. He passed; for naught
Told what was going on within.
How keen the stars! his only thought;
The air how calm, and cold, and thin!
In the solemn midnight
Centuries ago.

O strange indifference! Low and high
Drowsed over common joys and cares;
The earth was still, but knew not why;
The world was listening unawares.
How calm a moment may precede
One that shall thrill the world forever!
To that still moment none would heed,
Man's doom was linked, no more to sever,
In the solemn midnight
Centuries ago.

It is the calm and solemn night!
A thousand bells ring out and throw
Their joyous peals abroad, and smite
The darkness, charmed, and holy now!
The night that erst no name had worn,
To it a happy name is given;
For in that stable lay, new-born,
The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven,
In the solemn midnight
Centuries ago.

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