The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Christmas Hymn

Old Style: 1837
Alfred Dommett (1811-1887)
Vocal Recordings: MP3 / OGG

Source: Burton Egbert Stevenson, ed., The Home Book of Verse, Volume 1 (New York: Henry Holt And Company, 1912); Project Gutenberg Etext #2619.

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 lordly 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,
    Falling 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!

Oh, 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 silent 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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