Page images

Oh, they wander wide who roam

For the joys of life from home. Depend upon it, where the birthdays are well kept, either by poor or rich, there are the happiest families. We should be inclined to take the observance as a touchstone of mutual domestic love. They who «

wander wide from home," and seek their joys elsewhere, are not likely to care for the children's birthdays.

And what of the wretched children of penury? Ah! who is there to care for them or their birthdays ? Life is too hard a stepmother to them for any one to mock them with the “ Many happy returns of the day.” One's heart aches to think where and how their anniversaries are kept. But, God be thanked, to them, as to all, each year brings one glad birthday—the promise and assurance of a better lot when the kingdom of Christ shall come.

That blessed day is the anniversary of the birth of Him who had nowhere to lay His head.

O Saviour! whom this early morn

Gave to our world below;
To mortal want and labour born,

And more than mortal woe.

Incarnate Word, by every grief,

By each temptation tried,
Who lived to yield our ills relief,

And to redeem us, died !
If gaily clothed, and proudly fed,

In dangerous wealth we dwell,
Remind us of Thy manger

And lowly cottage cell.

poor a

If, pressed by poverty severe,

In envious want we pine,
Oh may the Spirit whisper near,

How lot was Thine!
Through fickle fortune's various scene

From sin preserve us free;
Like us, Thou hast a mourner been,
May we rejoice with Thee!


On this day the cake and the orange are in the workhouses, and in the gaols, and in the hovels, where Christian benevolence at this holy time seeks to penetrate, shedding often tears of pity and of wonder at the depths of human misery, while seeking to win poor outcast souls to their only hope.

The Christ-child's birthday was a famous theme of the old poets of our own and other lands.

Quaintly fanciful is that vision of Southwell :

As I in hoary winter's night

Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat,
Which made


heart to glow.
And lifting up a fearful eye

To view what fire wa near,
A pretty babe all burning bright

Did in the air appear ;
Who, scorched with excessive heat,

Such floods of tears did shed,
As though his floods should quench his flames,

Which with his tears were bred.
Alas !” quoth he, “ but newly born,

In fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts,

Or feel my fire, but I.
My faultless breast the furnace is,

The fuel wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;

The ashes, shames and scorns.
The fuel justice layeth on,

And mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought

Are men's defiled souls:
For which, as now on fire I am,

To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath
To wash them in


With this he vanish'd out of sight,

And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind

That this was Christmas Day. Of this singular poem Ben Jonson said that to have written it he would gladly have destroyed several of his ; whether he included the following we do not know :



I sing the birth was born to-night,
The author both of life and light;

The Angels so did sound it,

And like the ravish'd shepherds said,
Who saw the light and were afraid,

Yet search'd and true they found it,
The Son of God, the Eternal King,
That did us all salvation bring,

And freed the soul from danger ;

He whon the whole world could not take, The world which heaven and earth did make,

Was now laid in a manger.

The Father's wisdom will'd it so,
The Son's obedience knew no No.

Both wills were in one stature;

And as that wisdom had decreed,
The Word was now made flesh indeed,

And took on Him our nature.

What comfort by Him do we win,
Who made Himself the price of sin,

To make us heirs of glory!

To see this babe all innocence,
A martyr born in our defence;

Can man forget this story?

A greater poet than “ rare Ben Jonson,” gifted as he was, has attuned his wondrous lyre to celebrate the holiest birth the world ever knew, in that sublime composition, Milton's Ode :


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 unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty
Wherewith He wont at heaven's high council-

To 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 vein
Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
To welcome Him to this His new abode,
Now while the Heaven, by the sun's team un-

trod, Hath took no print of the approaching light, And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons


See how from far upon the eastern road
The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet :
Oh, run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at His blessed feet;
Have thou the honour first thy Lord to greet,

And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire.


It was the winter wild,

While the Heaven-born child
All meanly wrapped in the rude manger lies:

Nature in awe to Him

Had doffed her gaudy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize.

[ocr errors]



« PreviousContinue »