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From a Cornish Window Part 31

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"Sweet Jesus turned Him round about, And He neither laughed nor smiled, But the tears came trickling from His eyes To be but a maiden's child. . . ."

I plead for this suggestion: (1) that it adds nothing to the text and changes but one word; (2) that it removes nothing but the weak and unrhyming 'Like water from the skies'; and (3) that it leads directly to Mary's answer:--

"Though you are but a maiden's child, Born in an ox's stall," &c.

But it were better to hunt out the original than to accept any emendation; and I hope you will agree that the original of this little poem, so childlike and delicately true, is worth hunting for. "The carol," says Mr. Husk, "has a widely-spread popularity. On a broadside copy printed at Gravesend,"--presumably the one from which 'Joshua Sylvester' took his version--"there is placed immediately under the t.i.tle a woodcut purporting to be a representation of the site of the Holy Well, Palestine; but the admiration excited thereby for the excellent good taste of the printer is too soon alas! dispelled, for between the second and third stanzas we see another woodcut representing a feather-clad-and-crowned negro seated on a barrel, smoking--a veritable ornament of a tobacconists' paper."

One of the finest carols written of late years is Miss Louise Imogen Guiney's _Tryste Noel_. It is deliberately archaic, and (for reasons hinted at above) I take deliberate archaism to be about the worst fault a modern carol-writer can commit. Also it lacks the fine simplicity of Christina Rossetti's _In the bleak midwinter_. I ought to dislike it, too, for its sophisticated close. Yet its curious rhythm and curious words haunt me in spite of all prejudice:--

"The Ox he openeth wide the Doore And from the Snowe he calls her inne; And he hath seen her smile therefore, Our Ladye without sinne.

Now soone from Sleepe A Starre shall leap, And soone arrive both King and Hinde: _Amen, Amen_; But O the Place cou'd I but finde!

"The Ox hath husht his Voyce and bent Trewe eye of Pity ore the Mow; And on his lovelie Neck, forspent, The Blessed lays her Browe.

Around her feet Full Warme and Sweete His bowerie Breath doth meeklie dwell; _Amen, Amen_; But sore am I with vaine Travel!

"The Ox is Host in Juda's stall, And Host of more than onely one, For close she gathereth withal Our Lorde, her little Sonne.

Glad Hinde and King Their Gyfte may bring, But wou'd to-night my Teares were there; _Amen, Amen_; Between her Bosom and His hayre!"

The days are short. I return from this Christmas ramble and find it high time to light the lamp and pull the curtains over my Cornish Window.

"The days are sad--it is the Holy tide: The Winter morn is short, the Night is long; So let the lifeless Hours be glorified With deathless thoughts and echo'd in sweet song: And through the sunset of this purple cup They will resume the roses of their prime, And the old Dead will hear us and wake up, Pa.s.s with dim smiles and make our hearts sublime!"

Friends dead and friends afar--I remember you at this season, here with the log on the hearth, the holly around the picture frames and the wine at my elbow. One gla.s.s in especial to you, my old friend in the far north!--

CHRISTMAS EVE

"Friend, old friend in the manse by the fireside sitting, Hour by hour while the grey ash drips from the log.

You with a book on your knee, your wife with her knitting, Silent both, and between you, silent, the dog--

"Silent here in the south sit I, and, leaning, One sits watching the fire, with chin upon hand, Gazes deep in its heart--but ah! its meaning Rather I read in the shadows and understand.

"Dear, kind, she is; and daily dearer, kinder, Love shuts the door on the lamp and our two selves: Not my stirring awakened the flame that behind her Lit up a name in the leathern dusk of the shelves.

"Veterans are my books, with tarnished gilding: Yet there is one gives back to the winter grate Gold of a sunset flooding a college building, Gold of an hour I waited--as now I wait--

"For a light step on the stair, a girl's low laughter, Rustle of silks, shy knuckles tapping the oak, Dinner and mirth upsetting my rooms, and, after, Music, waltz upon waltz, till the June day broke.

"Where is her laughter now? Old tarnished covers-- You that reflect her with fresh young face unchanged-- Tell that we met, that we parted, not as lovers: Time, chance, brought us together, and these estranged.

"Loyal we were to the mood of the moment granted, Bruised not its bloom, but danced on the wave of its joy; Pa.s.sion, wisdom, fell back like a wall enchanted Ringing a floor for us both--Heaven for the boy!

"Where is she now? Regretted not, though departed, Blessings attend and follow her all her days!

--Look to your hound: he dreams of the hares he started, Whines, and awakes, and stretches his limbs to the blaze.

"Far old friend in the manse, by the grey ash peeling Flake by flake from the heat in the Yule log's core, Look past the woman you love--On wall and ceiling Climbs not a trellis of roses--and ghosts--o' yore?

"Thoughts, thoughts! Whistle them back like hounds returning-- Mark how her needles pause at a sound upstairs.

Time for bed, and to leave the log's heart burning!

Give ye good-night, but first thank G.o.d in your prayers!"

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From a Cornish Window Part 31 summary

You're reading From a Cornish Window. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch. Already has 466 views.

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