Sunday, April 20, 2014 · 2:24 p.m.

Robert Bridges' poem "Noel: Christmas Eve 1913"

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The slideshow, compiled and edited by Jenni Frankenberg Veal, features a condensed version of Robert Bridges' classic poem "Noël: Christmas Eve 1913." Read the full poem text below.

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
[Translated: Peace to men of good will]

  • 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.
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