Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the season... revive a festive Chesterton passage that, back in September, I couldn't help quoting out of season. Chesterton wrote lots of good stuff about Christmas; it was a favourite topic with him. But I especially like this because it expresses wonderfully how salubrious Christmas is; a blast of fresh Winter air in a world, and an era, that is all too often sickly and fevered. Chesteton was never better than when he was bashing morbidity and championing simple and innocent joys.

There is nothing really wrong with the whole modern world except that it does not fit in with Christmas. The modern world will have to fit in with Christmas or die. Those who will not rejoice in the end of the year must be condemned to lament it. We must accept the New Year as a new fact; we must be born again. No kind of culture or literary experience can save him who entirely refuses this cold bath of winter ecstasy. No poetry can be appreciated by him who cannot appreciate the mottoes in the crackers. No log-rolling can rescue him who will not roll the Yule-log. Christmas is like death and child-birth—a test of our simple virtue; and there is no other such test left in our land to-day.

"The Wrong Books at Christmas", Illustrated London News, January 9, 1909


  1. There's something a little Heavenly about Chesterton: joyfully, perpetually, monotonously right.

    Please don't mistake me - I love happy monotony.

  2. Well, in Orthodoxy Chesterton said God never gets tired of the sunrise and keeps shouting "encore!".

  3. Merry Christmas, Maolsheachlann.

    [lionel johnson]

    The golden stars give warmthless fire,
    As weary Mary goes through night :
    Her feet are torn by stone and briar ;
    She hath no rest, no strength, no light :
    O Mary, weary in the snow,
    Remember Ireland’s woe !

    O Joseph, sad for Mary’s sake !
    Look on our earthly Mother too :
    Let not the heart of Ireland break
    With agony, the ages through :
    For Mary’s love, love also thou
    Ireland, and save her now !

    Harsh were the folk, and bitter stern,
    At Bethlehem, that night of nights.
    For you no cheering hearth shall burn :
    We have no room here, you no rights.
    O Mary and Joseph ! hath not she,
    Ireland, been even as ye ?

    The ancient David’s royal house
    Was thine, Saint Joseph ! wherefore she,
    Mary, thine Ever Virgin Spouse,
    To thine own city went with thee.
    Behold ! thy citizens disown
    The heir of David’s throne !

    Nay, more ! The Very King of kings
    Was with you, coming to his own :
    They thrust Him forth to lowliest things ;
    The poor meek beasts of toil alone
    Stood by, when came to piteous birth
    The God of all the earth.

    And she, our Mother Ireland, knows
    Insult, and infamies of wrong :
    Her innocent children clad with woes,
    Her weakness trampled by the strong :
    And still upon her Holy Land
    Her pitiless foeman stand.

    From Manger unto Cross and Crown
    Went Christ: and Mother Mary passed
    Through Seven Sorrows, and sat down
    Upon the Angel Throne at last.
    Thence, Mary ! to thine own Child pray,
    For Ireland’s hope this day !

    She wanders amid winter still.
    The dew of tears is on her face :
    Her wounded heart takes yet its fill
    Of desolation and disgrace.
    God still is God ! And through God she
    Foreknows her joy to be.

    The snows shall perish at the spring,
    The flowers pour fragrance round her feet :
    Ah, Jesus ! Mary ! Joseph ! bring
    This mercy from the Mercy Seat !
    Send it, sweet King of Glory, born
    Humbly on Christmas Morn !

  4. Merry Christmas to you, Ixoa! Thank you for the poem, I had never encountered it before!

  5. Maolsheachlann, this is Shane btw ("lxoa" is just how my blog comes up in OpenID). I found it in one of Yeats' compilations.

  6. In that case-- Merry Christmas Shane!