A Christmas Hymn

Alfred Domett

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 forever!

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 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!


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