Alfred Domett

(20 May 1811 – 2 November 1887 / Camberwell, Surrey)

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.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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