作者：Morris, Harrison S.
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In the Yule-Log Glow, Book 3 Christmas Tales from 'round the World试读：
BETWEEN THE TALE-TELLING.
Fancy, if you will, Gentle Reader, that, between the intervals of tale-telling,—the Yule-log still ruddy upon the visages of your fellow-guests from many lands,—fancy that a quiet traveller draws out of his side-pocket a little, well-worn pair of books from which he reads some scrap of verse or some melodious Christmas poem. Fancy, too, that, beneath the inn windows, in the snow outside, an occasional band of the Waits strikes up an ancient carol with voice and horn, begging, when the music is done, admittance to the glowing warmth within doors and a share in the plenteous cakes and ale.
Imagine this, if you will, and choose, from the pages to come, whatever of old or new will fit well into the conceit; for not a few carols or legends lie there which have done service under the snow-covered gables or by the crackling wood, and which will help, with their quaint heartiness or simple beauty, to realize the charm of Christmas the world around,—that charm which flows from hearty and generous good-will towards men; which has for its inner light the kindly desire for peace on earth.——————————
Legends in Song.
"Tell sweet old tales,Sing songs as we sit bending o'er the hearth,Till the lamp flickers and the memory fails."
THE HALLOWED TIME.
Some 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,No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,So hallowed and so gracious is the time.
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
This is the month, and this the happy morn,Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King,Of wedded maid and virgin mother born,Our great redemption from above did bring;For so the holy sages once did sing,That he our deadly forfeit should release,And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.
That glorious form, that light insufferable,And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,Wherewith he wont at heaven's high council-tableTo sit the midst of Trinal Unity,He laid aside; and, here with us to be,Forsook the courts of everlasting day,And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.
Say, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred veinAfford a present to the Infant-God?Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strainTo welcome him to this his new abode,Now while the heaven, by the sun's team untrod,Hath took no print of the approaching light,And all the spangled host kept watch in squadron bright?
See, how from far, upon the eastern road,The star-led wizards haste with odors sweet;O run, prevent them with thy humble ode,And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;Have thou the honor first thy Lord to greet,And join thy voice unto the angel-quire,From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.
It was the winter wild,While the heaven-born ChildAll meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;Nature in awe to him,Had doff'd her gaudy trim,With her great Master so to sympathize:It was no season then for herTo wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.
Only with speeches fairShe woos the gentle airTo hide her guilty front with innocent snow;And on her naked shame,Pollute with sinful blame,The saintly veil of maiden-white to throw;Confounded, that her Maker's eyesShould look so near upon her foul deformities.
But he, her fears to cease,Sent down the meek-eyed Peace;She, crown'd with olive green, came softly slidingDown through the turning sphere,His ready Harbinger,With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;And, waving wide her myrtle wand,She strikes an universal peace through sea and land.
No war, or battle's soundWas heard the world around;The idle spear and shield were high up-hung;The hooked chariot stoodUnstain'd with hostile blood;The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;And kings sat still with awful eye,As if they surely knew their sovereign Lord was by.
But peaceful was the nightWherein the Prince of LightHis reign of peace upon the earth began:The winds, with wonder whist,Smoothly the waters kist,Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,Who now hath quite forgot to rave,While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The stars, with deep amaze,Stand fix'd in steadfast gaze,Bending one way their precious influence;And will not take their flight,For all the morning light,Or Lucifer that often warn'd them thence;But in their glimmering orbs did glow,Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And, though the shady gloomHad given day her room,The sun himself withheld his wonted speed,And hid his head for shame,As his inferior flameThe new-enlighten'd world no more should need.He saw a greater Sun appearThan his bright throne, or burning axletree, could bear.
The shepherds on the lawn,Or e'er the point of dawn,Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;Full little thought they thenThat the mighty PanWas kindly come to live with them below;Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.
When such music sweetTheir hearts and ears did greet,As never was by mortal fingers strook;Divinely-warbled voiceAnswering the stringed noise,As all their souls in blissful rapture took;The air, such pleasure loth to lose,With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.
Nature that heard such sound,Beneath the hollow roundOf Cynthia's seat, the airy region thrilling,Now was almost wonTo think her part was done,And that her reign had here its last fulfilling;She knew such harmony aloneCould hold all heaven and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sightA globe of circular light,That with long beams the shame-faced night array'd;The helmed cherubim,And sworded seraphim,Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd,Harping in loud and solemn quire,With unexpressive notes, to Heaven's new-born Heir.
Such music as, 'tis said,Before was never made,But when of old the sons of morning sung,While the Creator greatHis constellations set,And the well-balanced world on hinges hung,And cast the dark foundations deep,And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep.
Ring out, ye crystal spheres,Once bless our human ears,If ye have power to touch our senses so;And let your silver chimeMove in melodious time,And let the base of Heaven's deep organ blow,And, with your ninefold harmony,Make up full concert to the angelic symphony.
For, if such holy songEnwrap our fancy long,Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,And speckled VanityWill sicken soon and die,And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould,And Hell itself will pass away,And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.
Yea, Truth and Justice thenWill down return to men,Orb'd in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,Mercy will sit between,Throned in celestial sheen,With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering;And Heaven, as at some festival, Will open wide the gates of her high palace-hall.
But wisest Fate says No,This must not yet be so;The Babe lies yet in smiling infancy,That on the bitter crossMust redeem our loss,So both himself and us to glorify:Yet first, to those ychain'd in sleep,The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep;
With such a horrid clangAs on Mount Sinai rang,While the red fire and smouldering clouds outbreak:The aged earth aghastWith terror of that blast,Shall from the surface to the centre shake;When at the world's last session,The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his throne.
And then at last our blissFull and perfect is,But now begins; for, from this happy day,The Old Dragon, under groundIn straighter limits bound,Not half so far casts his usurped sway;And, wroth to see his kingdom fail,Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
The oracles are dumb,No voice or hideous humRuns through the arched roof in words deceiving.Apollo from his shrineCan no more divine,With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.No nightly trance, or breathed spell,Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.
The lonely mountains o'er,And the resounding shore,A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;From haunted spring and dale,Edged with poplar pale,The parting Genius is with sighing sent;With flower-inwoven tresses torn,The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets, mourn.
In consecrated earth,And on the holy hearth,The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint;In urns, and altars round,A drear and dying soundAffrights the Flamens at their service quaint;And the chill marble seems to sweat,While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat.
Peor and BaälimForsake their temples dim,With that twice-batter'd god of Palestine;And mooned Ashtaroth,Heaven's queen and mother both,Now sits not girt with tapers' holy shine;The Lybic Hammon shrinks his horn,In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz mourn.
And sullen Moloch, fled,Hath left in shadows dreadHis burning idol all of blackest hue;In vain with cymbals' ringThey call the grisly king,In dismal dance about the furnace blue;The brutish gods of Nile as fast,Isis, and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.
Nor is Osiris seenIn Memphian grove or green,Trampling the unshower'd grass with lowings loud:Nor can he be at restWithin his sacred chest;Naught but profoundest hell can be his shroud;In vain, with timbrell'd anthems dark,The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipt ark.
He feels from Judah's landThe dreaded Infant's hand,The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;Nor all the gods besideLonger dare abide,Nor Typhon huge ending in snaky twine;Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,Can in his swaddling-bands control the damned crew.
So, when the sun in bed,Curtain'd with cloudy red,Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,The flocking shadows paleTroop to the infernal jail,Each fetter'd ghost slips to his several grave;And the yellow-skirted faysFly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze.
But see, the Virgin blestHath laid her Babe to rest;Time is our tedious song should here have ending:Heaven's youngest teemed starHath fix'd her polished car,Her sleeping Lord, with handmaid lamp attending:And all about the courtly stableBright-harnessed angels sit in order serviceable.
THE FIRST ROMAN CHRISTMAS.
It was the calm and silent night!Seven hundred years and fifty-threeHad Rome been growing up to might,And now was queen of land and sea.No sound was heard of clashing wars,Peace brooded o'er the hushed domain;Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and MarsHeld undisturbed their ancient reign,In the solemn midnightCenturies ago.
'Twas in the calm and silent night!The senator of haughty RomeImpatient urged his chariot's flight,From lonely revel rolling home.Triumphal arches, gleaming, swellHis breast with thoughts of boundless sway;What recked the Roman what befellA paltry province far awayIn the solemn midnightCenturies ago?
Within that province far awayWent plodding home a weary boor;A streak of light before him lay,Fallen through a half-shut stable-door,Across his path. He passed; for naughtTold what was going on within.How keen the stars! his only thought;The air how calm, and cold, and thin!In the solemn midnightCenturies ago.
O strange indifference! Low and highDrowsed over common joys and cares;The earth was still, but knew not why;The world was listening unawares.How calm a moment may precedeOne that shall thrill the world forever!To that still moment none would heed,Man's doom was linked, no more to sever,In the solemn midnightCenturies ago.
It is the calm and solemn night!A thousand bells ring out and throwTheir joyous peals abroad, and smiteThe darkness, charmed, and holy now!The night that erst no name had worn,To it a happy name is given;For in that stable lay, new-born,The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven,In the solemn midnightCenturies ago.
Alfred H. Domett.
THE THREE DAMSELS.
(SUGGESTED BY A DRAWING OF DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI'S.)
Three damsels in the queen's chamber,The queen's mouth was most fair;She spake a word of God's motherAs the combs went in her hair.Mary that is of might,Bring us to thy Son's sight.
They held the gold combs out from herA span's length off her head;She sang this song of God's motherAnd of her bearing-bed.Mary most full of grace,Bring us to thy Son's face.
When she sat at Joseph's hand,She looked against her side;And either way from the short silk bandHer girdle was all wried.Mary that all good may,Bring us to thy Son's way.
Mary had three women for her bed,The twain were maidens clean;The first of them had white and red,The third had riven green.Mary that is so sweet,Bring us to thy Son's feet.
She had three women for her hair,Two were gloved soft and shod;The third had feet and fingers bare,She was the likest God.Mary that wieldeth land,Bring us to thy Son's hand.
She had three women for her ease,The twain were good women;The first two were the two Maries,The third was Magdalen.Mary that perfect is,Bring us to thy Son's kiss.
Joseph had three workmen in his stall,To serve him well upon;The first of them were Peter and Paul,The third of them was John.Mary, God's handmaiden,Bring us to thy Son's ken.
"If your child be none other man's,But if it be very mine,The bedstead shall be gold two spans,The bed-foot silver fine."Mary that made God mirth,Bring us to thy Son's birth.
"If the child be some other man's,And if it be none of mine,The manger shall be straw two spans,Betwixen kine and kine."Mary that made sin cease,Bring us to thy Son's peace.
Christ was born upon this wise:It fell on such a night,Neither with sounds of psalteries,Nor with fire for light.Mary that is God's spouse,Bring us to thy Son's house.
The star came out upon the eastWith a great sound and sweet:Kings gave gold to make him feastAnd myrrh for him to eat.Mary of thy sweet mood,Bring us to thy Son's good.
He had two handmaids at his head,One handmaid at his feet;The twain of them were fair and red,The third one was right sweet.Mary that is most wise,Bring us to thy Son's eyes.Amen.
Algernon Charles Swinburne.
KING OLAF'S CHRISTMAS.
At Drontheim, Olaf the KingHeard the bells of Yule-tide ring,As he sat in his banquet hall,Drinking the nut-brown ale,With his bearded Berserks haleAnd tall.
Three days his Yule-tide feastsHe held with Bishops and Priests,And his horn filled up to the brim;But the ale was never too strong,Nor the Sagaman's tale too long,For him.
O'er his drinking-horn, the signHe made of the cross divineAs he drank, and muttered his prayers;But the Berserks evermoreMade the sign of the Hammer of ThorOver theirs.
The gleams of the firelight danceUpon helmet and hauberk and lanceAnd laugh in the eyes of the king;And he cries to Halfred the Scald,Gray-bearded, wrinkled, and bald:"Sing!
"Sing me a song divine,With a sword in every line,And this shall be thy reward;"And he loosened the belt at his waist,And in front of the singer placedHis sword.
"Quern-biter of Hakon the Good,Wherewith at a stroke he hewedThe millstone through and through,And Foot-breadth of Thoralf the StrongWere neither so broad nor so longNor so true."
Then the Scald took his harp and sang,And loud through the music rangThe sound of that shining word;And the harp-strings a clangor madeAs if they were struck with the bladeOf a sword.
And the Berserks round aboutBroke forth into a shoutThat made the rafters ring;They smote with their fists on the board,And shouted, "Long live the swordAnd the King!"
But the king said, "O my son,I miss the bright word in oneOf thy measures and thy rhymes."And Halfred the Scald replied,"In another 'twas multipliedThree times."
Then King Olaf raised the hiltOf iron, cross-shaped and gilt,And said, "Do not refuse;Count well the gain and the loss,Thor's hammer or Christ's cross:Choose!"
And Halfred the Scald said, "This,In the name of the Lord, I kiss,Who on it was crucified!"And a shout went round the board,"In the name of Christ the LordWho died!"
Then over the waste of snowsThe noonday sun uproseThrough the driving mists revealed,Like the lifting of the Host,By incense-clouds almostConcealed.
On the shining wall a vastAnd shadowy cross was castFrom the hilt of the lifted sword,And in foaming cups of aleThe Berserks drank "Was-hael!To the Lord!"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
HALBERT AND HOB.
Here is a thing that happened. Like wild beasts whelped, for den,In a wild part of North England, there lived once two wild men,Inhabiting one homestead, neither a hovel nor hut,Time out of mind their birthright: father and son, these,—but,—Such a son, such a father! Most wildness by degreesSoftens away: yet, last of their line, the wildest and worst were these.
Criminals, then? Why, no: they did not murder and rob;But give them a word, they returned a blow,—old Halbert as young Hob:Harsh and fierce of word, rough and savage of deed,Hated or feared the more—who knows?—the genuine wild-beast breed.
Thus were they found by the few sparse folk of the country-side;But how fared each with other? E'en beasts couch, hide by hide.In a growling, grudged agreement: so father son lay curledThe closelier up in their den because the last of their kind in the world.
Still, beast irks beast on occasion. One Christmas night of snow,Came father and son to words—such words! more cruel because the blowTo crown each word was wanting, while taunt matched gibe, and curseCompeted with oath in wager, like pastime in hell,—nay, worse:For pastime turned to earnest, as up there sprang at lastThe son at the throat of the father, seized him, and held him fast.
"Out of this house you go!"—there followed a hideous oath—"This oven where now we bake, too hot to hold us both!If there's snow outside, there's coolness: out with you, bide a spellIn the drift, and save the sexton the charge of a parish shell!"
Now, the old trunk was tough, was solid as stump of oakUntouched at the core by a thousand years: much less had its seventy brokeOne whipcord nerve in the muscly mass from neck to shoulder-bladeOf the mountainous man, whereon his child's rash hand like a feather weighed.
Nevertheless at once did the mammoth shut his eyes,Drop chin to breast, drop hands to sides, stand stiffened,—arms and thighsAll of a piece—struck mute, much as a sentry stands,Patient to take the enemy's fire: his captain so commands.
Whereat the son's wrath flew to fury at such sheer scornOf his puny strength by the giant eld thus acting the babe new-born:And "Neither will this turn serve!" yelled he. "Out with you! Trundle, log!If you cannot tramp and trudge like a man, try all-fours like a dog!"
Still the old man stood mute. So, logwise,—down to floorPulled from his fireside place, dragged on from hearth to door,—Was he pushed, a very log, staircase along, untilA certain turn in the steps was reached, a yard from the house-door sill.
Then the father opened his eyes,—each spark of their rage extinct,—Temples, late black, dead-blanched, right-hand with left-hand linked,—He faced his son submissive; when slow the accents came,They were strangely mild though his son's rash hand on his neck lay all the same.
"Halbert, on such a night of a Christmas long ago,For such a cause, with such a gesture, did I drag—so—My father down thus far: but, softening here, I heardA voice in my heart, and stopped: you wait for an outer word.
"For your own sake, not mine, soften you too! UntrodLeave this last step we reach, nor brave the finger of God!I dared not pass its lifting: I did well. I nor blameNor praise you. I stopped here: Halbert, do you the same!"
Straightway the son relaxed his hold of the father's throat.They mounted, side by side, to the room again: no noteTook either of each, no sign made each to either: lastAs first, in absolute silence, their Christmas-night they passed.
At dawn, the father sate on, dead, in the selfsame place,With an outburst blackening still the old bad fighting-face:But the son crouched all a-tremble like any lamb new-yeaned.
When he went to the burial, some one's staff he borrowed,—tottered and leaned.But his lips were loose, not locked,—kept muttering, mumbling. "There!At his cursing and swearing!" the youngsters cried; but the elders thought, "In prayer."