James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

December 24

A Christmas Hymn

By Alfred Domett (1811–1887)

(Christmas Eve)

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 hushed domain:

Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars

Held undisturbed 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 recked 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,

Fallen through a half-shut stable-door

Across his path. He passed—for naught

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

Drowsed 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 linked 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—charmed and holy now!

The night that erst no shame 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!