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THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS, Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS
A REVOLT AGAINST THE TYRANNY OF REASON. A -winter without Christmas w nld bo like a spring robbed of its" tubus"and daffodils, an Easter unilhimineJ uy the moon. Briefer and darker shrink the days beneath the 6un'a dwindling arches, the fields and woods are hare, unkind >jinds blow dust and sleet across a bitter sky, rain begreens a fat churchyard, the holly and the ivy are full well'grown. And as if with a positive genius in his ■ bosom, man rubs age out of his eyes, xieseimism and foreboding out of his mind, tunes up a voice grown hoarse with chaf- - fcring, forgets his ills and bills, lets; nothing him dismay, squanders his stockingiul of hard-won savings, chokes his oven with baked meats —plum-iesrridge, goose, capon, minced pies, and rsbsi beef — " embraces his loving wife," and is a child •• again: 0 then bespake Joseph, I have done Mary wrong, But cheer up, my dearest, And be not cast down. It is this perennial conversion, this , universal prodigal's return to the simplest; realities of mortal life, that is the. , miracle of Christmas. The history of the I whole year through, as it is recorded ad nauseam day after dav, is for the most part tragic, arid, or superficial. That the orchards are in bloom, that the night-ing-ale is returned to English dusks, that the fields are white with harvest, wake but a feeble communal response. Churchman, pagan, Nonconformist rarely at heart meet together; righteousness and peace seldom kiss one another. The year for 11 months together is under the "tyranny of the reason of the adult. . We pierce to its imaginative truth and beauty, its inexhaustible springs of comfort and joy, only by incessant and discouraged effort. And then, on the three high [ roads of the world the caravans of the kings begin their earthly pilgrimage. The J star is in the east. Mistletoe bunches the frpsty bough. It is the ancient Night of Mothers again, a festival to which, it f may be said, every religion comes only as I an envoy Jo a supreme coronation, which I every human being once attends, naked and unashamed: The first good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of one, To see her own son Jesus To suck at her breastbone. And. that, as the title of one of Cole, rkige's poems runs, was " something childii/h, but very natural." As with most human achievements, [ however divinely inspired, it was a long and arduous journey to this complete accord. The austere Origen deemed it sin--1 ful to keep Christ's birthday as if ha were a Pharaoh. Mummers in visor and mask risked condign penalties when Chaucer kept Christmas. The Middle r Ages fulminated against the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires at the festival. The Puritans frowned on mince pie and refused to wanton in the garden, of Herrick's Hesperides. But still Yule survived. Charles 11. collaborated with Marley's ghost. Punctual, in spite _of wind and" weather, the three ships still came sailing in in the morning. Still "Stephen out of kitchen camo with boar's head in hand." And frozenfooted under Orion, the caroller cried against the fast-shut door of Dives, " worth many a thousand pound," who to-morrow himself might be a cold and shrouded banquet beneath the snow. The postman, perhaps, is a more certain—and more pertinacious—advocate. But would Charity so bestir herself at this season if Christmas fell, as once it did, in March? Winter owes at least half its countless candles, its heaped-up fires, and '' a wonderful savor of good cheer and roasting" to this one day. But the debt has bs»:n in part repaid. 0 ye Frost and Cold, 0 ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord! —■ and in this Western World they have indeed blessed His cradle. Their secret ministry in the trances of the blast has hung the eaves of the Inn at Bethlehem with silent icicles, "quietly shining to the quiet moon." To English imaginations, "Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone," when the shepherds lifted astonished eyes from their sheep to the dark roof of the world hovering with angels. And Christmas, however it may fall in fact, will ever be in fancy a lodge, called Home, in a wintry wilderness, biasing with frosty fires, alight with festivity, and heaped about with snow. —The Poets and Christmas.— As with love and children, with sea and mountain, sunset and autumn, the poets were slow to discover this last beauty. For "men's ideas of the picturesque are limited by their feelings of comfort." Chaucer had seen the stars on a frosty night, but not apparently with any desire to spend it in their company. Spenser's shepeheard's boy, Colin Clout, had not a good word for winter's blood-cruddling hoary frost and drery ysicles. He lusted for summer prowde with daffodillies. Not even love could keep him warm. Shakespeare was a country boy. He had watched the milk come frozen home 4 in pail, and bumped his head upon the thickribbed ice. But he, too, wastes no jestheticism on the subject. "It was the winter wild," begins Milton's hymn on, the Nativity, and the seasons remain unflattered "Come Raphael, the babe must eat, Provide our little Toby meat," wrote George Herbert, and had at least looked out of his window at "a frost-nipt sun." Crashaw scatters his sweet conceits--offering his "whitest sheets of snow To furnish the fair Infant's bed." One and all looked at Winter a little askance. But hardly a poet of modern times has proved insensitive to the beauty of drifted snow at the dayspring, frost out-sparkling Sirius, though few have more intently realised it than the Elizabethan author of 'The Burning Babe,' who died for his faith at Tyburn. Burns and Emerson, Coleridge and Wordsworth (who knew the joy of drowsily wakening between blankets to the rumor of the storm without), Christina Rossetti and Morris (who somewhat too pre-Raphaelitishly talks of "ilia milk-white snow"), Tennyson, Browning, Patmore—are all poets of Winter. And London lives immortally beautiful beneath tlw silently sifting and veiling, snows of Robert .Bridges. It may be that, in spite of all this, Christmas is becoming a discipline as well as a delight. It is not easy to put on childhood again, to be and wise together. If ever the strain become too acute, let not arms into Ulster, but sugar and spice, and all things nice be forbidden entry by Royal Proclamation into the whole United Kingdom. Let it be gaol again for the. wassailcr, fines for the giver of gifts. Exilo and outlaw be Jack Frost. Then tho mellow old English spirit will return again. Hotly rebellious and "merry gentlemen" will abound, and, with the old balladist, we all shall "wish that Chriistmastida was twenty times so long."—' The Times.'
THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS, Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
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