Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Upon the Midnight Clear

Those happy chimes!
like fairy laughter!
How deliciously they carol !
What sounds to my soul,
like "peace on earth; good-will to men!"
Godey's Lady's Book, 1855
Long before I knew its lineage, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" was my favorite Christmas carol. Imagine my joy to learn that it is thought to be the first 'American' carol, written in the late 1840s. According to Wikipedia, its author was Edmund Sears, pastor of a Unitarian church in Massachusetts. It goes on to say that the melody was provided by one Richard Storrs Willis.
And here, according again to Wikipedia (can you tell I'm too taken up with holiday preparations to put much time in on research?) are the original and complete words:
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King.
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life's crushing
load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the
wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
Happy Christmas!

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