Monday, December 9, 2013

THE LION'S NOEL, I. The Carol of the Ox and Ass

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

I.   The Carol of the Ox and Ass

Christmas Song

Of all the animals on earth

I think the luckiest

Are the ox and ass who had 

Young Jesus for their guest,

The ox and ass in Bethlehem

Whose privilege and joy

It was to share their stable with

A little homeless Boy;

The luckiest of animals

On earth, both tame and wild,

For they were first to look with love

Upon the Christmas Child!

            Elizabeth-Ellen Long, 1880-1961

Besançon Noël

Within a humble stable

Not far from Bethlehem,

With neither mink nor sable

Nor crown nor diadem,

He sleeps in cradle of straw

        And for

His courtiers, swains and cattle.

The King of Kings is warm,

        No harm

From wind or rain or storm

        Can come

His quiet rest unsettle.

Beside Him is His mother

With father Joseph near.

There is not any other

His poverty to share.

But ox and asses wait

        To greet

All Christians at the stable.

So hasten to the King

        And bring

Your joyful hearts and sing

        To Him

The best that you are able.

                     Old French Carol

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

"Now they are all on their knees,"

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,"

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so. 

                 Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928

Here is a link to listen to a setting of this poem from a wonderful Christmas Cantata:

The Oxen from Hodie by Ralph Vaughan Williams

from "How Love Came"

Anno Domini I.

The night was darker than ever before

            (So dark is sin),

When the Great Love came to the stable door

             And entered in,

And laid Himself in the breath of kine

            And the warmth of hay,

And whispered to the star to shine,

            And to break, the day.

                   Alice Archer Sewall, in 1893

detail from  a painting by Giotto

A Christmas Prayer

Loving looks the large-eyed cow,

Loving stared the long-eared ass

At Heaven's glory in the grass!

Child, with added human birth

Come to bring the child of earth

Glad repentance, tearful mirth,

And a seat beside the hearth

At the Father's knee---

Make us peaceful as thy cow;

Make us patient as thine ass;

Make us quiet as thou art now;

Make us strong as thou wilt be.

Make us always know and see

We are his, as well as thou.

                George MacDonald, 1824-1905

Eddi's Service  (A.D. 687)

Eddi, priest of St. Wilfrid

In his chapel at Manhood End,

Ordered a midnight service

For such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,

And the night was stormy as well.

Nobody came to service,

Though Eddi rang the bell.

"'Wicked weather for walking,"

Said Eddi of Manhood End.

"But I must go on with the service

For such as care to attend."

The altar-lamps were lighted, --

An old marsh-donkey came,

Bold as a guest invited,

And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,

The water splashed on the floor,

And a wet, yoke-weary bullock

Pushed in through the open door.

"How do I know what is greatest,

How do I know what is least?

That is My Father's business,"

Said Eddi, Wilfrid's priest.

"But -- three are gathered together --

Listen to me and attend.

I bring good news, my brethren!"

Said Eddi of Manhood End.

And he told the Ox of a Manger

And a Stall in Bethlehem,

And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,

That rode to Jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel,

They listened and never stirred,

While, just as though they were Bishops,

Eddi preached them The Word,

Till the gale blew off on the marshes

And the windows showed the day,

And the Ox and the Ass together

Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him,

Said Eddi of Manhood End,

"I dare not shut His chapel

On such as care to attend."   

            Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

detail from a painting by Giotto

The luckiest of animals 
On earth, both tame and wild, 
For they were first to look with love 
Upon the Christmas Child!

                              Elizabeth-Ellen Long, from "Christmas Song"

Here ends
The Carol of the Ox and Ass


Heraldic Lion, Tapestry, by William Morris (1836-1896), British painter. This scene symbolizes the Quest for the Unicorn by King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. 

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 

For more of this wonderful poem, New Prince, New Pomp, go to this link:

1 comment:

  1. I love these! Thanks for posting them. What treasures you know how to find.