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The Poets on Christmas

The Poets on Christmas

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Jul 09, 2013
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THE POETS O CHRISTMASSELECTED AD EDITEDBY WILLIAM KIGHTLODO :SOCIETY FOR PROMOTIG CHRISTIA KOWLEDGE1907SOME say that ever 'gainst that season comesWherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,The bird of dawning singeth all night long ;And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad ;The nights are wholesome ; then no planets strike,o fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,So hallowed and so gracious is the time.SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564-1616).Hamlet, i, i. 159.PREFACE"OELS, noels, noels!" The following is a collec-tion of Odes, Songs, Lyrics, Hymns, and Sonnets onChristmas, gathered from various sources but embody-ing a common aim or tendency. It is a memorial of the thoughts of diverse minds and the feelings of many hearts as to that gracious time which Christen-dom commemorates with a homage ever old yetalways new. For the material made use of it hasbeen necessary to go a good way back among thewriters of the Anglo-Saxon race ; but only a portionof what exists has been selected and placed within
the volume. The aim of the compiler has been tobring together the best products of the genius of England and America on the subject.Unquestionably the finest Christmas poem whichthe world possesses is Milton's magnificent Ode, On theMorning of the ativity, written (it is thought) whenhe was a Can, brid-ge : undergraduate ; but many of the early English, aqe'l^ have ,;the, dev p our nation'sliterary youth upon {.h t enj. -.Selections from these aregiven ; but those >vhicli .arr; quite archaic, both inform and substance t are e^xciutieci^om the volume.The book is nos- issued '-for - Scholars, but for theunlearned ; and not for social use, but for privateperusal. Many poems, however, which could not beutilized as hymns in worship may be welcomed by thelovers both of old English and of modern verse.The editor does not consider all the fragments hevi prefacehas brought together of equal literary value ; neitherdoes he presume to think that all the poems whichare dear to the universal heart of Christendom havebeen included. either completeness nor finality ispossible in any such collection ; but it is hoped thatthis one is fairly cosmopolitan, and representative of many schools of thought within the Christian Church.In arranging the poems their chronological orderhas been followed for the most part, as this showsthe growth of the mind of the English race on thesubject. It is more than interesting to watch itsevolution from comparatively crude beginnings inwhich the yule-log and wassail-bowl, the boar's head,with tumultuous dance and song, were prominentelements to the richer and nobler products of suc-
ceeding years. Milton's great Ode is, however,placed first in the series, as that poem not onlyrepresents the highest watermark of English geniuson the subject, but is also perhaps the finest thing heever wrote. It has not been found possible, in everycase, to find\6tft' trhq '.partScUlat*yfear;in which eachpoem was wr?teh/ '-WhJen ife'/*' known,' it is printed atthe end of the verses j and'. he' : :year of the birth anddeath of the writer- is ' in eticaJt'ecT immediately after hisor her name, irr..tli^: ifue-'.fcrlio' \ving the title of thepoem. When a date'te uh'ce"rtalil,' c*. (for circa) is pre-fixed to it ; when left unfilled, it is either unknown, orthe writer is still alive.The collection is not limited to poems referring toChristmas Day. It includes Advent and Epiphanyhymns, as well as those on the ativity in general.ipretace v.iThe occasional omission of stanzas must be ex-plained. It does not occur frequently, and is ;ilways indicated by points (....) inserted betweenthe verses quoted. The reason for the omission isthat the stanzas designedly left out are sometimestrivial, occasionally tawdry, and they frequently ob-trude opinion where dogma should be concealed,or suggested rather than emphasized. Sir RoundellPalmer (Lord Selborne) wrote, in the preface to hisadmirable Book of Praise, "There is far more drossthan gold in the works of all voluminous hymn-writers." Some of our choicest have prosaic lines,and uncouth words, or halting stanzas. Others havearchaic phrases w r hich have long since fallen intodesuetude, and of which there can be no resuscitation.These phrases are usually, although not always, re-moved in this collection. They are removed, whenan equally fitting or more appropriate one can be

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