Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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—        5
  Peace brooded o’er the hushed domain:
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
  Held undisturbed their ancient reign,
      In the solemn midnight,
        Centuries ago.        10
’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        15
  His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;
What recked the Roman what befell
  A paltry province far away,
      In the solemn midnight,
        Centuries ago?        20
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        25
  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!        30
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        35
  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!        40
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,        45
  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!        50

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