Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Tomorrow, the 28th (and the Third Day of Christmas), is Childermas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I'll be travelling, so I'm posting this early. A Childermas poem by Christina Rosetti:

They scarcely waked before they slept,
They scarcely wept before they laughed;
They drank indeed death's bitter draught,
But all its bitterest dregs were kept
And drained by Mothers while they wept.

From Heaven the speechless Infants speak:
Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear,
For swords nor sorrows come not here.
Now we are strong who were so weak,
And all is ours we could not seek.

We bloom among the blooming flowers,
We sing among the singing birds;
Wisdom we have who wanted words:
here morning knows not evening hours,
All's rainbow here without the showers.

And softer than our Mother's breast,
And closer than our Mother's arm,
Is here the Love that keeps us warm
And broods above our happy next.
Dear Mothers, come: for Heaven is best.

In times of war and desolation, in times of tyranny and death, it is always essential in the Christmas season to remember the little ones who fall victim to the murderous impulses of mankind.

Feast of St. John

From Keble's The Christian Year:

"LORD, and what shall this man do?"
Ask’st thou, Christian, for thy friend?
If his love for Christ be true,
Christ hath told thee of his end:
This is he whom God approves,
This is he whom Jesus loves.

Ask not of him more than this,
Leave it in his Saviour’s breast,
Whether, early call’d to his bliss,
He in youth shall find his rest,
Or armed in his station wait
Till his Lord be at the gate:

Whether in his lonely course
(Lonely, not forlorn) he stay,
Or with Love’s supporting force
Cheat the toil and cheer the way:
Leave it all in his high hand,
Who doth hearts as streams command.

Gales from heaven, if so he will,
Sweeter melodies can wake
On the lonely mountain rill
Than the meeting waters make.
Who hath the Father and the Son,
May be left, but not alone.

Sick or healthful, slave or free,
Wealthy, or despis’d and poor—
What is that to him or thee,
So his love to Christ endure?
When the shore is won at last,
Who will count the billows past?

Only, since our souls will shrink
At the touch of natural grief,
When our earthly lov’d ones sink,
Lend us, Lord, thy sure relief;
Patient hearts, their pain to see,
And thy grace, to follow Thee.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr

Happy Boxing Day. It's the Feast of Stephen, as in the most famous song associated with this day:

Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain."

"Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter’s rage freeze your blood less coldly."

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

Words to take to heart. The song, by the way, is by John Neale (1818-1866), who is mostly known for his translations of very old hymns into modern English.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Links and Linkables

God bless you all on this Feast of the Nativity. Some links I've been collecting for a post:

* Corey Robin discusses Arendt at LRB; worth reading. (ht: Cliopatria)

* Timothy Garton Ash on respecting believers when you don't respect their beliefs.

* Cobb delivers some well-deserved criticism of Kwanzaa-haters in Twas the Night Before Kwanzaa

* The video is somewhat hokey, but the song is powerful: Johnny Cash's God's Gonna Cut You Down at YouTube. Even more powerful is Cash's cover of the Ninch Inch Nails song, Hurt. Both are powerful instances of something Cash does exceptionally well: the memento mori.

* Speaking of music, December 22 was the fourth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death. All the work of the Conscience of Punk is good (Know Your Rights with The Clash is noteworthy), but I've always been especially bowled over by his cover of Bob Marley's Redemption Song.

* I only just got around to watching Kenneth Miller's January interview on The Colbert Report; but it's quite good.

* I've been listening to ABC Radio National's The Philosopher's Zone, hosted by Alan Saunders. It's quite interesting. For a taste, try John Bigelow's talk about Australia and metaphysics or the interview with Martin Bridgstock on his course devoted to skepticism and the paranormal. The December 30th program will be on what philosophers do and why.

* Via PZ Myers, I came across PandaSmash's transposition of Christmas carols into minor key -- basically, what they would sound like if they were scored the way horror movie music is. Quite cool.

* Speaking of which, the Little Professor has links for Victorian Christmas books and tales. Why 'speaking of which'? For the Victorians, Christmas was the season for ghost stories. Hence the most famous Christmas ghost story of all -- Dickens's A Christmas Carol.