I meant to post this yesterday but I was unexpectedly overtaken by a long nap. It’s Edgar Odell Lovett’s Christmas message from 1945, his last year as president of the Rice Institute and the year that saw the end of World War II:
I think everyone is familiar with A Christmas Carol, but probably not with the Bridges poem. I knew of him only dimly as the person responsible for the posthumous publication of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ work but it seems that Dr. Lovett was right–his work is good.
Noel: Christmas Eve 1913
Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis A frosty Christmas Eve when the stars were shining Fared I forth alone where westward falls the hill, And from many a village in the water’d valley Distant music reach’d me peals of bells aringing: The constellated sounds ran sprinkling on earth’s floor As the dark vault above with stars was spangled o’er. Then sped my thoughts to keep that first Christmas of all When the shepherds watching by their folds ere the dawn Heard music in the fields and marveling could not tell Whether it were angels or the bright stars singing. Now blessed be the tow’rs that crown England so fair That stand up strong in prayer unto God for our souls Blessed be their founders (said I) an’ our country folk Who are ringing for Christ in the belfries to-night With arms lifted to clutch the rattling ropes that race Into the dark above and the mad romping din. But to me heard afar it was starry music Angels’ song, comforting as the comfort of Christ When he spake tenderly to his sorrowful flock: The old words came to me by the riches of time Mellow’d and transfigured as I stood on the hill Heark’ning in the aspect of th’ eternal silence.
While the Bridges poem may not be widely read, it survives as the lyrics to a song of the same title that was recorded by John Denver on his Christmas album with The Muppets. It’s a lovely song. Many of the rest of the songs on the album are silly, but it’s a favorite in our family.