Thursday, December 12, 2013

THE LION'S NOEL, III. The March of the Camels

His stable is
a Prince’s courte,
 The cribbe His 
chaire of State;
The beastes 
are parcell of 
His pompe,
The wodden dishe, 
His plate.
Robert Southwell 

The Lion's Noël
A Book of Christmas Beasts

III. The March of the Camels

         The Journey of the Magi, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, France, 1894

From "The Song of the Camels"

Not born to the forest are we, not

Born to the plain,

To the grass and the shadowed tree,

And the splashing of rain,

Only the sand we know

And the cloudless sky,

The mirage and the deep-sunk well

And the stars on high.

To the sound of our bells we came

With huge soft stride,

Kings riding upon our backs,

And the slaves at our side.

Out of the East drawn on

By a dream and a star,

Seeking the hills and the groves

Where the fixed towns are.

Our goal was no palace gate,

No temple of old,

But a child in his mother's lap,

In the cloudy cold.

      Elizabeth Coatsworth, 1893-1986

From "The Camel"

Some people criticize

my four flat feet,

the base of my pile of joints,

but what should I do

with high heels

crossing so much country,

such shifting dreams,

while upholding my dignity?

My heart wrung

by the cries of jackals and hyenas,

by the burning silence,

the magnitude of Your cold stars,

I give You thanks, Lord,

for this my realm,

wide as my longings

and the passage of my steps.

Carrying my royalty

in the aristocratic curve of my neck

from oasis to oasis,

one day shall I find again

the caravan of the magi?

And the gates of Your paradise?


       Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, 1919-1995

                Translated by Rumer Godden

An excerpt from

Prière du Chameau

j’arriverai peut-être un jour

à retrouver

la caravane de Mages

et les Portes de Votre Paradis.    

      Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, 1919-1995

We Three Kings

We three kings of orient are,

Bearing gifts we traverse afar

Field and fountain,

Moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.

       O star of wonder, star of night,

       Star with royal beauty bright.

       Westward leading, still proceeding,

       Guide us to thy perfect light.


Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,

Gold I bring to crown Him again

King for ever, ceasing never

Over us all to reign.


Frankincense to offer have I,

Incense owns a Deity nigh.

Prayer and praising, all men raising,

Worship Him, God most high.


Myrrh is mine;

Its bitter perfume breathes

A life of gathering gloom.

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and Sacrifice!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Heaven to earth replies.

       O star of wonder, star of night,

       Star with royal beauty bright.

       Westward leading, still proceeding,

       Guide us to thy perfect light.

    John H. Hopkins, Jr., 1820-1891

Choral setting of this carol performed by the choir at King's College, Cambridge

From "Camels of the Kings"

All night we have run under the moon,

Without effort, breathing lightly,

Smooth as a breeze over the desert floor,

One white star our compass.

We have come to no palace, no place

Of towers and minarets and the calling of servants,

But a poor stable in a poor town.

So why are we bending our crested necks?

Why are our proud heads bowed

And our eyes closed meekly?

Why are we outside this hovel,

Humbly and awkwardly kneeling?

      Leslie Norris, 1920-2006

Here ends
The March of the Camels


The verse from the title page in modern typeface:

His stable is a Prince's courte,
     The cribb His chaire of State;
The beastes are parcell of His pompe,
     The wodden dishe, His plate.

     Robert Southwell, from New Prince, New Pomp 

No comments:

Post a Comment