The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Eve Of Christmas

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
In Memoriam A.H.H.
XXVII

Source: "Christmas Carols - Old & New." London: G. G. Harrup & Co., ca. 1918, pp. 39-41.

The time draws near the birth of Christ:
    The moon is hid; the night is still,
    The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
    From far and near, on mead and moor,
    Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changes on the wind,
    That now dilate, and now decrease,
    Peace and good will, good will and peace,
Peace and good will, to all mankind.

Note:

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XXVIII.

The time draws near the birth of Christ:
    The moon is hid; the night is still;
    The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
    From far and near, on mead and moor,
    Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changes on the wind,
    That now dilate, and now decrease,
    Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.

This year I slept and woke with pain,
    I almost wish’d no more to wake,
    And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:

But they my troubled spirit rule,
    For they controll’d me when a boy;
    They bring me sorrow touch’d with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.

XXIX.

With such compelling cause to grieve
    As daily vexes household peace,
    And chains regret to his decease,
How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;

Which brings no more a welcome guest
    To enrich the threshold of the night
    With shower’d largess of delight
In dance and song and game and jest?

Yet go, and while the holly boughs
    Entwine the cold baptismal font,
    Make one wreath more for Use and Wont,
That guard the portals of the house;

Old sisters of a day gone by,
    Gray nurses, loving nothing new;
    Why should they miss their yearly due
Before their time? They too will die.

XXX.

With trembling fingers did we weave
    The holly round the Christmas hearth;
    A rainy cloud possess’d the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.

At our old pastimes in the hall
    We gambol’d, making vain pretence
    Of gladness, with an awful sense
Of one mute Shadow watching all.

We paused: the winds were in the beech:
    We heard them sweep the winter land;
    And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.

Then echo-like our voices rang;
    We sung, tho’ every eye was dim,
    A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:

We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
    Upon us: surely rest is meet:
    ‘They rest,’ we said, ‘their sleep is sweet,’
And silence follow’d, and we wept.

Our voices took a higher range;
    Once more we sang: ‘They do not die
    Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change;

‘Rapt from the fickle and the frail
    With gather’d power, yet the same,
    Pierces the keen seraphic flame
From orb to orb, from veil to veil.’

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
    Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
    O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.

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