Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Holy Night!: Masterworks of Christmas Poetry

O Holy Night!:
Masterworks of Christmas Poetry
O Holy Night!: Masterworks of Christmas Poetry

According to Ray Olson
The Christmas season is the time of year when poetry is actually heard in public, thanks to the resolutely secular works of Clement Clarke Moore ("'Twas the night before Christmas") and Dr. Seuss (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Religious folk remind us, of course, that the season is basically of sacred significance. They might add that there is a vast body of beautiful religious verse for it, too, from which editor Moser here makes a small selection of real gems. He presents them in four parts concerned with, respectively, the prophecies of the Christ, the Annunciation and Immaculate Conception, Jesus' birth, and the promise of the Christ; each section is prefaced and "postfaced" by appropriate passages from the Bible. The poets represented, though predominantly writers of English from Cynewulf to Richard Wilbur, include Virgil as translated by Dryden among the prophets, many early churchmen, and non-English bards ranging from Dante to Pasternak; Moser, often with helpers, does most of the translating. This is a reverently lovely gift for the season.

A Poem From The Book

"A Child of the Snows" by Chesterton:

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

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