The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

On Love

Words: Bliss Carman  (1861-1929)1
Vocal Recording: MP3 / OGG

Source: Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  Located at On Love,
Accessed November 16, 2006 

TO the assembled folk    
At great St. Kavin’s spoke    
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas Eve;    
I give you joy, my friends,    
That as the round year ends,
We meet once more for gladness by God’s leave.

On other festal days    
For penitence or praise    
Or prayer we meet, or fullness of thanksgiving;    
To-night we calendar
The rising of that star    
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.

Ah, we disparage still    
The Tidings of Good Will,    
Discrediting Love’s gospel now as then!
And with the verbal creed    
That God is love indeed,    
Who dares make Love his god before all men?

Shall we not, therefore, friends,    
Resolve to make amends
To that glad inspiration of the heart;    
To grudge not, to cast out    
Selfishness, malice, doubt,    
Anger and fear; and for the better part,

To love so much, so well,
The spirit cannot tell    
The range and sweep of her own boundary!    
There is no period    
Between the soul and God;    
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.…

To-day we walk by love;    
To strive is not enough,    
Save against greed and ignorance and might.    
We apprehend peace comes    
Not with the roll of drums,
But in the still processions of the night.

And we perceive, not awe    
But love is the great law    
That binds the world together safe and whole.    
The splendid planets run
Their courses in the sun;    
Love is the gravitation of the soul. 

In the profound unknown,    
Illumined, fair, and lone,    
Each star is set to shimmer in its place.
In the profound divine    
Each soul is set to shine,    
And its unique appointed orbit trace.

There is no near nor far,    
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night,    
Yet where without a sound    
The winged seed comes to ground,    
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.

One force, one lore, one need
For satellite and seed,    
In the serene benignity for all.    
Letting her time-glass run    
With star-dust, sun by sun,    
In Nature’s thought there is no great nor small.

There is no far nor near    
Within the spirit’s sphere.    
The summer sunset’s scarlet-yellow wings    
Are tinged with the same dye    
That paints the tulip’s ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?

(The earth was without form;    
God moulded it with storm,    
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue;    
Lest it should come to ill
For lack of spirit still,    
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.)…

Of old, men said, ‘Sin not;    
By every line and jot    
Ye shall abide; man’s heart is false and vile.’
Christ said, ‘By love alone    
In man’s heart is God known;    
Obey the word no falsehood can defile.’…

And since that day we prove    
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.    
For to what other power    
Will life give equal dower,    
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!

Look down the ages’ line,
Where slowly the divine    
Evinces energy, puts forth control;    
See mighty love alone    
Transmuting stock and stone,    
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.

And what is energy,    
In-working, which bids be    
The starry pageant and the life of earth?    
What is the genesis    
Of every joy and bliss,
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?

What hangs the sun on high?    
What swells the growing rye?    
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake?    
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail,    
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?…

What lurks in the deep gaze    
Of the old wolf? Amaze,    
Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear.
But deeper than all these    
Love muses, yearns, and sees,    
And is the self that does not change nor veer.

Not love of self alone,    
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,    
Love that is kind and wise,    
Knows trust and sacrifice,    
And croons the old dark universal tongue.…

And who has understood    
Our brothers of the wood,    
Save he who puts off guile and every guise    
Of violence,—made truce    
With panther, bear, and moose,    
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?

For they, too, do love’s will,    
Our lesser clansmen still;    
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;    
Courageous, glad and hale,    
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.…

Open the door to-night    
Within your heart, and light    
The lantern of love there to shine afar.    
On a tumultuous sea
Some straining craft, maybe,    
With bearings lost, shall sight love’s silver star.


I have been unable to determine whether Mr. Carmen's full name is "Bliss William Carman" or "William Bliss Carman." Internet sources are split on the issue. Return

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