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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Alfred Domett 1811–87

A Christmas Hymn

IT was the calm and silent night!

Seven hundred years and fifty-three

Had Rome been growing up to might,

And now was Queen of land and sea.

No sound was heard of clashing wars;

Peace brooded o’er the hush’d domain;

Apollo, Pallas, Jove and Mars,

Held undisturb’d their ancient reign,

In the solemn midnight

Centuries ago.

’T was in the calm and silent night!

The senator of haughty Rome

Impatient urged his chariot’s flight,

From lordly revel rolling home.

Triumphal arches gleaming swell

His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;

What reck’d the Roman what befell

A paltry province far away,

In the solemn midnight

Centuries ago!

Within that province far away

Went plodding home a weary boor:

A streak of light before him lay,

Fall’n through a half-shut stable door

Across his path. He pass’d—for nought

Told what was going on within;

How keen the stars! his only thought;

The air how calm and cold and thin,

In the solemn midnight

Centuries ago!

O strange indifference!—low and high

Drows’d over common joys and cares:

The earth was still—but knew not why;

The world was listening—unawares.

How calm a moment may precede

One that shall thrill the world for ever!

To that still moment none would heed,

Man’s doom was link’d, no more to sever,

In the solemn midnight

Centuries ago.

It is the calm and solemn night!

A thousand bells ring out, and throw

Their joyous peals abroad, and smite

The darkness, charm’d and holy now.

The night that erst no name had worn,

To it a happy name is given;

For in that stable lay new-born

The peaceful Prince of Earth and Heaven,

In the solemn midnight

Centuries ago.