The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Christmas Minstrelsy

Words: William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
The Dedication was to the Rev. Christopher Wordsworth, D.D. from his affectionate brother.


Source: William Wordsworth, The River Duddon: A Series of Sonnets (London: Longman, Hurse, Rees, Orme, & Brown, 1820), pp. 113-117.

The Minstrels played their Christmas tune
To-night beneath my cottage-eaves;
While, smitten by a lofty moon,
The' encircling Laurels, thick with leaves,
Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen,
That overpowered their natural green.

Through hill and valley every breeze
Had sunk to rest with folded wings;
Keen was the air, but could not freeze
Nor check, the music of the strings;
So stout and hardy were the band
That scrap'd the chords with strenuous hand.

And who but listen'd? till was paid
Respect to every Inmate's claim;
The greeting given, the music played,
In honour of each household name,
Duly pronounc'd with lusty call,
And "merry Christmas" wish'd to all!

O Brother! I revere the choice
That took thee from thy native hills;
And it is given thee to rejoice:
Though public care full often tills
(Heaven only witness of the toil)
A barren and ungrateful soil.

Yet, would that Thou, with me and mine,
Hadst heard this never-failing rite;
And seen on other faces shine
A true revival of the light;
Which Nature, and these rustic Powers,
In simple childhood, spread through ours!

For pleasure hath not ceased to wait
On these expected annual rounds,
Whether the rich man's sumptuous gate
Call forth the unelaborate sounds,
Or they are offered at the door
That guards the lowliest of the poor.

How touching, when, at midnight, sweep
Snow-muffled winds, and all is dark,
To hear and sink again to sleep!
Or, at an earlier call, to mark,
By blazing fire, the still suspense
Of self-complacent innocence;

The mutual nod, the grave disguise
Of hearts with gladness brimming o'er;
And some unbidden tears that rise
For names once heard, and heard no more;
Tears brightened by the serenade
For infant in the cradle laid!

Ah! not for emerald fields alone,
With ambient streams more pure and bright
Than fabled Cytherea's zone *
Glittering before the Thunderer's sight,
Is to my heart of hearts endeared,
The ground where we were born and rear'd!

Hail, ancient Manners! sure defence,
Where they survive, of wholesome laws;
Remnants of love whose modest sense
Thus into narrow room withdraws;
Hail, Usages of pristine mould,
And ye, that guard them, Mountains old!

Bear with me, Brother! quench the thought
That slights this passion, or condemns;
If thee fond Fancy ever brought
From the proud margin of the Thames,
And Lambeth's venerable towers,
To humbler streams, and greener bowers.

Yes, they can make, who fail to find,
Short leisure even in busiest days;
Moments to cast a look behind,
And profit by those kindly rays
That through the clouds do sometimes steal,
And all the far-off past reveal.

Hence, while the imperial City's din
Beats frequent on thy satiate ear,
A pleased attention I may win
To agitations less severe,
That neither overwhelm nor cloy,
But fill the hollow vale with joy!

* Cytherea. Another name for the Greek Goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Source: Wikipedia contributors. "Aphrodite." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Sep. 2017. Web. 4 Sep. 2017. [Link]
Wikipedia. Return

Artwork by John A. Hows from Christmas In Art And Song. New York: The Arundel Printing and Publishing Company, 1879.


The title of this poem, as listed at the top of page 113, was "To the Rev. Dr. W. (With The Sonnets To The River Duddon, And Other Poems In This Collection)."

Most frequently appears with verses 1, 2, & 3 only.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 234-7.

Also located at The Minstrels played their Christmas tune,, accessed November 16, 2006

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