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Christmas Poetry

Christmas Poetry

That Midnight Hour
The Gift of God
Bethlehem and Calvary
To Mary
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!
Mary Today
The Three Kings
Mary of Christmas
The Shepherd Boy's Gift
Mary and the Magi
Manger Story
Madonna Child
Cradle Song of Mary's Beloved
Mary Speaks
Let us Go Over to Bethlehem
A Christmas Hymn
A Moment of Nativity
Christmas Carol (for Berna Hayden)
Nativity Song
A Christmas Carol (by G. K. Chesterton)
The Stable
For You
A Christmas Carol (by Samuel Coleridge)
To Mary at Christmas
Christmas Eve
A Gaelic Christmas
A Christmas Eve Choral
Five Carols for Christmastide
A Christmas Carol (by May Pobryn)
The Christmas Silence
As Dew in Aprille
The Cherry Tree Carol
The First Christmas
Christmas Madonna

The Midnight Hour

The Virgin Mother kneels upon the floor
And holds her baby in her arm,
Her heart is gladder than her lips can say,
To keep her new born baby snug and warm,
A babe more sweet and fair and dear
Than any rose bud in the bright sunshine,
Whose little eyes look straight into her own,
O, blessed maid, God's son is also thine.

'Twas holy midnight, when He came to earth:
As pours a sun ray through a limpid glass,
Not leaving any mark upon its face;
A drop of dew upon the fresh green grass,
A little star that fell upon her lap,
A cooing babe, that seeks her virgin breast.
The hopes of all the sin-cursed world
Upon this baby's eyelids rest.

And ever since the midnight hour is holy,
And millions of human hearts are stirred
To wonderment and love for Him who came,
To save the world, God's own incarnate Word.
He came in darkness, He who was The Light,
His godhead shone from clear blue baby eyes,
The curse of earth's first sin was lifted then,
That midnight hour reopened paradise.

– Frederick M. Lynk, S.V.D.
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


The Gift of God

There was seen a radiance
Glowing one night
Near the little maiden Mary
In blue and white.

"Lilies are not fairer,
"Roses more red,
Than the Child she sings to slumber,"
An angel said.

So the shepherds ventured
Through the white cold,
And their eyes beheld the Infant,
An hour old.

Long they gazed and wondered,
Awkward in awe,
At the paramount perfection
Within their straw.

"Diamonds are but trifles!
"Rubies no gem!"
Cried the hearts that slaved for pittance
Near Bethlehem.

So it was forever,
After the night
When the little maiden Mary
Wore blue and white.

– Mary Fabyan Windeatt
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Bethlehem and Calvary

Oh, silent Bethlehem, attend and see
How gently Mary tends her new-born King:
Mark with what reverence and ecstasy,
Her humble virgin heart with joy will sing.

See with what tenderness, she tucks within,
Those coverlets, His tiny Hands and Feet,
Oh, with what loving care she kisses Him,
And smoothes the pillow for His Head so sweet.

Oh silent Bethlehem, attend and see,
Mary's most precious task is now complete!

Oh sient Calvary, attend and see,

How sadly Mary watches Christ, her King,
Mark with what noble, patient sympathy,
Her anguished mother heart meets sorrow's ring.
Bravely she watches, her sweet face grows pale,
And suffers other hands to "tuck Him in,"
His Hands and Feet they "tuck" beneath the nails,
His kiss is gall; a token of man's sin.
Oh, silent Calvary, attend and see,
Man's most ignoble work is now complete!

– Winifred Cannon
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


To Mary

Many a year is hurried past
Since first your eyes on me were cast
Ah! Happy day! You held me fast.
My Mary!

A young maid's mind began to grow
And learn't of you--God's Hand-maid low
And learn't to love, to love you so.
My Mary!

And then one blessed Christmas night
You left your home in heaven's height
You stood before me glowing white.
My Mary!

Just for a while you lingered there
And then you left your Child so fair
The first time in my heart to care.
My Mary!

Oh, Blest Communion, Christmas day,
Oh, Mary, grant that I may stay
Close to your Child and you alway.
My Mary!

– Sr. Mary Elena, O.S.F.
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.



There is faint music in the night,
And pale wings fanned by silver flight;
A frosty hill with tender glow
Of countless stars that shine on snow.
A shelter from the winter storm,
A straw-lined manger, safe and warm,
And Mary crooning lullabies,
To hush her Baby's sleepy sighs.
Her eyes are rapt upon His Face,
Unheeded here is time and space;
Her heart filled with blinding joy,
For God's own Son--her little Boy!

– Nancy Buckley
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Within a stable sweet with hay,
And warm with breath of kine,
The Baby and his Mother lay,
O mystery divine!
The bed of straw cloud appears,
We hear the music of the spheres.
Gloria in excelsi Deo!

Dear Maiden Mother, let us now,
While to your breast He clings,
In humble adoration bow
With shepherds and with kings,
And at His feet our off'ring be
Praise, love, faith, hope, and charity.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

– Mary O'Reilly
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Mary Today

If this Christmas finds you burdened,
With no happy, joyous smile;
Maybe Mary being weary
Might rest with you

If in her shelter-seeking,
From Inn to crowded Inn,
She meets but greed and battle,
Hatred , death, and sin.

But finds a humble welcome
In the dwelling of your heart,
Though it bring you pain and sorrow,
Could you ask her to depart?
When submitting, you accept
Her burden with a prayer.....
Oh the glory of your joy
To find the Christ child there!

– Mary McDevitt
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944



(A Child at the Crib)—

It's very cold tonight, dear God,
I wish You had a coat
Of thickest fur
To keep You warm.
But, Jesus, you have her-
You Mother dear--
To hold You tight
With her arms
This Christmas night.
(Mary to the Child)
'Tis you are cold, dear little one;
Your feet are wet with snow
And you have come a long, long way;
Jesus has told me so.
A coat of fur you wished for Him,
But greater will He do.
My Babe, the very Lamb of God,
Will give Himself to you.

– Sister Agnes Mary, M.S.B.T.
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


The Three Kings

Over the desert,
Led by the Star,
Traveled three holy
Kings from afar.

Weary and long the
Way was for them,
Yet, with God's help, they
Reached Bethlehem.

There they found Jesus,
Lovely God-Child,
Mary and Joseph
Saintly and kind.

Here the three wise men
Humbly adored
Their heavenly King,
Savior and Lord.
Then their most precious
Gifts they unfold:
Myrrh and frankincense,
Purest of gold.

Offering all to
Jesus, whose love
Brought Him to earth from
Heaven above.

– Urbonas, Michael J. One Hundred Religious Rhymes. Erie, PA, 1961


Mary of Christmas

I know not how, dear Lady love,
To offer you my praise,
I cannot fashion as I wish
The words that I world raise.
You stand afar, celestial Queen,
The stars are in your crown,
They spangle at each gesture's path
And dust upon your gown.
Perhaps I might recall the night
You knelt beside the crib,
The night when doors and casements shut
And left a mountain's rib,
Alone, exposed, to hoard you close
Beside the new-born Child
And seek in Joseph's kindly eyes
For something worldly-mild.
To counteract such mundane chill
I hereby set my heart,
Dim mirror of an Infant's warmth,
Its flaming but a part,
A small, sad part of Endless Love
That came on Christmas day
To show a mother wonder-bright
To guide us on our way.

– Author Unknown
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


The Shepherd Boy's Gift

When near to her at Bethlehem
I knelt at Christmastide,
"There is no pillow for thy Son,
No pillow, Lady, for thy Son,"
I said to her, and sighed.

But when I softly turned away
Ant tiptoed from His bed,
The Lady Mary smiled at me,
The Lady Mary smiled to see
(I'd tucked it in so carefully)
My heart beneath His head.

– Edith Hume
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Mary and the Magi

The wise astronomers of old
Were men devout, though free;
And heaven's siderial path of gold
Led them, dear Lord, to Thee!

The pole-star of mysterious ray
That drew their yearning souls,
Thanks be to God--as bright today
In faith's blue archway rolls!

When first the little Babe divine,
The Gentile kings adored,
Their homage--burning love benign,--
At Mary's feet was poured.

Thence did it rise to Him she pressed,
In awe and love supreme--
Unto her meek, her sinless breast,
Beneath that Star's pure beam.

Their gold, their frankincense and myrrh,
Were laid at Mary's feet,
As wonderingly they gazed on her
Whose Son they came to greet.

ne the lesson taught to men
By ancient sages grand;
Homage to God is dearest , when
Received at Mary's hand.

Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Manger Story

Young Mary the Mother
Gazed fondly at Him,
And softly fingered
The manger's rim.

St. Joseph sat musing
On a bundle of hay,
The shepherds played sweetly
A bagpipe lay.

The angels stood smiling
In heaven's joy
And humbly adoring
The infant Christ-boy.

The ox and the donkey
Forgot the fresh straw
And knelt down in wonder
At what they saw.
The walls were shining
Like molten gold,
The winds sang gaily
Around the fold.

And gleaming silver
Strewed every star,
And sang a star greeting
From heaven afar.

– Frederick M. Lynk, S.V.D.
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Madonna and Child

The angels had returned to heaven,
The shepherds to their quiet fold,
The magi to their eastern homeland,
The manger still was hard and cold.

And yet, the Infant Son of God
Could not remain in it for long:
A cruel despot's ruthless threat
Drove Him to foreign land and tongue.

The Holy Three set out in haste
To cross the burning desert sand,
But nightly made a brief sojourn,
They knew their lives were in God's hand.

Would not the white stars rise to dance,
When Mary raised her infant's face
Up to her breast beneath the trees,
That e'en the barren desert grace?

Would not the sailing clouds begrudge
Her the sweet load upon her arm?
And gladly clothe Him in the white
Of fleecy wool to keep Him warm?

Would not the thrushes sing with her
When she intoned a cradle song?
Would not the flowers bow their heads
To hear that mother fair and young?

O would that I could be a star,
A cloud, a thrush, a fragrant flower,
To shine and sail, to sing and pray,
Around the sacred desert bower.

– Frederick M. Lynk, S.V.D.
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944


Cradle Song of Mary's Beloved

Sleep, O my little one, quietly sleep,
Angels shall guard thee slumbering deep.
White wings about thee
Enfolding that flame,
Holy, Immortal
Ineffable Name.

Sleep, O my little one, quietly sleep,
Heaven's high hosts around thee shall creep.
All love and glory,
Beauty and grace --
With kiss of a mother--
rest on thy face.

Sleep, my beloved, my little one sleep;
No crying be heard: O stir not nor weep.
A bright Star is shining
Above thy dear head,
And to this poor shelter
The great Kings are led.

Sleep then, my Kingly one, gently and still.
See how thine angels watch on each hill.
Here is thy mother
Close, dearest heart:
I shall be with thee
When shepherds depart.

Sleep, O my little Lord, darling one, sleep.

– Patrick K. O'Horan
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Mary Speaks

Blow gently, wind, do not disturb the hay,
Sing to my Son a zephyr roundelay.
Come softly, softly as the dark night, sheep,
For here your gentle Shepherd lies asleep.

Blow gently, wind,
Come softly, sheep,
My Son, my God,
Here lies asleep.
Stand closer, child, stand closer to your Lord,
For this is He for whom the Jews implored;
For this is He whom all the ages seek,
A gentle King, this Babe who lies asleep.
Stand closer, child,
Come softly, sheep,
My Son, my God,
Here lies asleep.

– Regina Kelly
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. New York: Marist Press, 1944.


Let Us Go Over to Bethlehem

What thoughts, O tender Mother, filled
Your heart that Christmas night?
Of that high moment when you heard
From God's own acolyte.

"The Lord is with thee. Blessed, thou..."
That you might souls unbind
That all of heaven looked to you
And all of humankind;

Did you relive exultant joys,
And days of journeying
That led to your aged cousin's home
Through valley's bright with Spring,

Or gazing on your new-born Son
See Cana; Calvary--
Beyond the lantern's dimming rays
A million altars see
Whose light would spell eternal Love,
With solace, strength for men;
And songs that echoed Bethlehem
Bring holy peace

If we draw near the hallowed cave
As shepherds did that morn,
You'll whisper all that filled your heart
That night our Christ was born.

– Mary Catherine Brennan
Robert, Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God's Mother and Mine. New York: Marist Press, 1946.


A Christmas Hymn

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

This child through David's city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
In praises of the child,
By whose descent among us,
The worlds are reconciled.

– Richard Wilber


A Moment of Nativity

It is a tender grasping little fist
that wraps her finger mightily that day,
so small and warm, holding tightly on ...
timely bond of mother with newborn life.
This mother's love is ageless, a sweet kiss
on a son's cuddled, moist head her way
...discovering a gift of love upon
a red birthing mat in that darkened cave.

He's a gift of light from God...of touching,
a truth divinely lent as she nurses,
creation's miracle always spinning
at fresh moments of eternal birthing.
So fondly in a brief glimpse of clutching,
the infinite bubbles out. And curses
of darkness, cold separation in winds
of loneliness from God, are bathing

in the midwife's washing pool
which thrusts her child, like a fool
into frigid water of our days
soon surely swirling with the Spirit's warmth.
Can we remember what the prophet says?
We forget. Forget ...As the mother's breast
spills calming milk into his rooting mouth,
we hope for God's strength in the coming test.

She smiles. Timeless little one gurgles.
Through that door of hope, a door ajar,
Life forms creation's gentle realm of flesh,
enlightening the mother's waiting heart,
insight to GLORY in the Christmas creche ...

– Virginia Kimball


Christmas Carol (For Berna Hayden)

an ice shadow will crunch under the tyres
again when we turn the gate from Midnight Mass
heading for windowlight waiting like a cup of tea.
next morning as usual the horses
will be ridden out steaming after their hoofprints
while a robin in the thicket rehearses spring
and when someone goes to get turf
the hoards of leaves will lie unnoticed
as the grey mysterious Liffey slowing
through sallow fields where sheep
munch among the witheredy ragworth
while a wavy V of geese disappears
high and silent down the sky
and somewhere the unnoticed infant
has come into the world again
is lying on our straw
softening everything as a baby does
smiling deepening the peace
of Christmas in Kildare.

– Desmond Egan,
London Tablet Christmas, 1993


Nativity Song

The beautiful Mother is bending
Low where her baby lies
Helpless and frail, for her tending:
But she knows the glorious eyes.

The Mother smiles and rejoices
While the Baby laughs in the hay,
She listens to heavenly voices:
"This Child shall be King some day."

O dear little Child in the manger,
Let me make merry with Thee,
O King, in my hour of danger,
Wilt Thou be strong for me?

– Blessed Jacopone da Todi
Robert, Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God's Mother and Mine. New York: Marist Press, 1946.


A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)
The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

– G.K. Chesterton
Robert, Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God's Mother and Mine. New York: Marist Press, 1946.


The Stable

The winds were scornful,
Passing by;
And gathering Angels
Wondered why

A burdened Mother
Did not mind
That only animals
Were kind.

For who in all the world
Could guess
That God would search out

– Sister M. Chrysostom, O.S.B.
Robert, Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God's Mother and Mine. New York: Marist Press, 1946.


For You

My Christmas Rosary I say
For you upon this blessed day;
Each prayer a precious Christmas Rose
To please the Baby Child, who knows
How many joys I wish for you;
May every one of them come true!

– Anonymous
Robert. Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God's Mother and Mine. New York: Marist Press, 1946.


A Christmas Carol

The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable-shed
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.

They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng.
Around them shone, suspending night!
While sweeter than a mother's song,
Blest Angels heralded the Savior's birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.

She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she pressed:
And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
The milk rushed faster to her breast:
Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.

Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
O why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,-
Didst thou ne'er love to hear of fame and glory?

And is not War a youthful king,
A stately Hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
Him Earth's majestic monarchs hail
Their friends, their playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.

Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state!
I am a woman poor and mean,
And wherefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father's tears his child!

A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow's toil had won;
Plunders God's world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.

Then wisely is my soul elate,
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I'm poor and of low estate,
The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:
Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born!'

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947.


To Mary at Christmas

No stranger pilgrims wear the shepherd's way
Than those who seek the stabled Child alone;
In many inns where Mary's Son would lay
No stranger keepers Bethlehem had known
Than those who choose not none but One. Deny
The Virgin-Mother? - better both were barred
From hearth and threshold lest half-welcome cry
More insult than such doors that hold their guard
On any knock............
Where Jesus is there must
His Mother be!
O Prince of Peace and Queen,
Whose love released our garden debt of dust,
Whose wills were manger laid for Crosses foreseen,
Such severing would flout all ordered plan
And mock the heart which flamed with whiter fire
Of human love, divinely fanned, than man
Had known could ever burn and not expire.

Before day-star elect, O heart most pure,
Brought low and pierced, denials more unite
What they would cleave, for scourge and Cross abjure
The Lamb of God and her alike in plight.
"I thirst;" and so athirst in kind was she,
His earthly dearest, lone and last to cede,
That Mary too became Love's legacy,
As well the giver given with the deed
So broadly writ in pain. Deny? ah, claim
In awe-struck breath this wondrous grace
Of kinship, children got in Adam's shame
And born anew to hail our Mother's place
In power above all angels, saints and seers!
O Care, whose fulness is unceasing prayers
For us, our days are momented with tears,
Our years are tithed with waywardness and snares,
Our exile versed in questioned ills and plaints,
And prodigal in pride our courage faints...
Yet over all our sweetest tribute rings-
We fly to covert of our Mother's wings.

– John Gilland Brunini
Thérèse. M. I Sing to a Maiden. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947



Your voice speaks:
Little child out of Eternity, now will I sing to thy mother! The
song shall be fair as dawn-tinted snow.
Rejoice Mary Virgin, daughter of my earth, sister of my soul,
rejoice, O joy of my joy!
I am as one who wanders through the night, but you are a house
under stars.
I am a thirsty cup, but you are God's open sea.
Rejoice Mary Virgin, blessed are those who call you blessed,
never more shall child of man lose hope.
I am one love for all, I shall never cease from saying: one of you
has been exalted by the Lord.
Rejoice Mary Virgin, wings of my earth, crown of my soul, rejoice
joy of my joy!
Blessed are those who call you blessed.

German original: Gertrude Von Le Fort
English translation: Margaret Chanler
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan, 1947


Christmas Eve

Let the door be open wide
And no blind be down at all,
For maybe she'd be walking
With the child within her shawl;
And how could we be bearing
The weight of shame and sin,
If she'd pass upon the roadway
With no light to guide her in?

Let the chair be readied now,
And the fire kept burning bright;
For sorely she'll be needing
The rest and warmth this night.
The rushes too be spreading
Upon the earthen floor,
To make it sweet and wholesome
Her blessed feet before.

Full oft I've heard the story
How once this night were known
To rest within a shieling
Three strangers meek and lone;
But dawn did yield no tidings
Of man, or maid, or child:
T'was Joseph's self was in it,
And Christ, and Mary mild.
So set the candles burning
Upon each window high,
And leave the door wide open
To guide their footsteps nigh:
Right warmly they'll be welcome
To share our hearth-fire bright-
For Mary's sake in heaven-
Who walk the wilds this night.

– Liam P. Clancy
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan, 1947.


A Gaelic Christmas

Their hearts are filled with Pity's mead,
And their souls are sorrow-laden,
When they hear of God's Handmaiden
Without housheen in her need.

Did Mary walk the bohreens green
From Shannon's shore to Galway's border,
The homes of Clare were set in order,
To shield her from the East winds keen.

My grief it is, and bitter woe,
That first to greet the Infant Treasure
Were men with love so mean of measure,
And not my kin by Shannon's flow,

Tho' Thomond heights be bleak and bare,
And Thomond folk but poor and lowly,
With a welcome warm and rapture holy
They'd share their store with the Strangers there.

If Mary went the winding road
From fair Aylroo to far Liscannor,
With matchless grace of mien and manner
Some banathee would ease her load:

She'd lilt a haunting "Husheen-ho,"
Or croon an olden Gaelic number,
To lull the Babe to smiling slumber
Before the turf-fire's fitful glow.

O, would that Mary's feet but trod,
That Christmas Eve, some Thomond valley,-
With a joy untold my kin would rally
To dower with gifts the Lamb of God.

– Liam P.Clancy
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan, 1947.


A Christmas Eve Choral

What sound is this across the dark
While all the earth is sleeping? Hark!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Why are thy tender eyes so bright,
Mary, Mary?
On the prophetic deep of night
Joseph, Joseph,
I see the borders of the light,
And in the day that is to be
An aureoled man-child I see,
Great love's son, Joseph.

He hears not, but she hears afar,
The Minstrel Angel of the star.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Why is thy gentle smile so deep,
Mary, Mary ?
It is the secret I must keep,
Joseph, Joseph,-
The joy that will not let me sleep,
The glory of the coming days,
When all the world shall turn to praise
God's goodness, Joseph.

Clear as the bird that brings the morn
She hears the heavenly music borne.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Why is thy radiant face so calm,
Mary, Mary?
His strength is like a royal palm,
Joseph, Joseph;
His beauty like the victor's psalm,
He moves like morning o'er the lands
And there is healing in his hands
For sorrow, Joseph.

Tender as dew-fall on the earth
She hears the choral of love's birth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

What is the message come to thee,
Mary, Mary?
I hear like wind within the tree,
Joseph, Joseph,
Or like a far-off melody
His deathless voice proclaiming peace,
And bidding ruthless wrong to cease,
For love's sake, Joseph.
Moving as rain-wind in the spring
She hears the angel chorus ring.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Why are thy patient hands so still,
Mary, Mary?
I see the shadow on the hill,
Joseph, Joseph,
And wonder if it is God's will
That courage, service, and glad youth
Shall perish in the cause of truth
Forever, Joseph.

Her heart in that celestial chime
Has heard the harmony of time.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Why is thy voice so strange and far,
Mary, Mary?
I see the glory of the star,
Joseph, Joseph,
And in its light all things that are
Made glad and wise beyond the sway
Of death and darkness and dismay,
In God's time, Joseph.

To every heart in love tis given
To hear the ecstasy of heaven.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

– Bliss Carman
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan, 1947.


Five Carols for Christmastide

The Ox he openeth wide the Doore,
And from the Snowe he calls her inne,
And he hath seen her Smile therefor,
our Ladye without Sinne.
Now soone from Sleep
A Starre shall leap,
And soone arrive both King and Hinde:
Amen, Amen:
But O, the Place co'd I but finde!

The Ox hath hush'd his voyce and bent
Trewe eyes of Pitty ore the Mow,
And on his lovelie Neck, forspent,
The Blessed layes her Browe.
Around her feet
Full Warme and Sweete
His bowerie breath doth meeklie dwell:
Amen, Amen:
But sore I am with Vaine Travel!

The Ox is host in Judah stall
And host of more than onelie one,
For close she gathereth withal
Our Lorde her littel Sonne.
Glad Hinde and King
Their Gyfte may bring,
But wo'd to-night my Teares were there,
Amen, Amen:
Between her Bosom and His hayre!

Vines branching stilly
Shade the open door,
In the house of Zion's Lily,
Cleanly and poor.
Oh, brighter than wild laurel
The Babe bounds in her hand,
The King, who for apparel
Hath but a swaddling-band,
And sees her heavenlier smiling than stars in His command!
Soon, mystic changes
Part Him from her breast,
Yet there awhile He ranges
Gardens of rest:
Yea, she the first to ponder
Our ransom and recall,
Awhile may rock Him under
Her young curls' fall,
Against that only sinless love-loyal heart of all.

What shall inure Him
Unto the deadly dream,
When the Tetrarch shall abjure Him,
The thief blaspheme,
And scribe and soldier jostle
About the shameful tree,
And even an Apostle
Demand to touch and see?-
But she hath kissed her Flower where the
Wounds are to be.

Three without slumber ride from afar,
Fain of the roads where palaces are;
All by a shed as they ride in a row,
"Here!" is the cry of their vanishing Star.
First doth a greybeard, glittering fine,
Look on Messiah in slant moonshine:
"This have I sought for Thee!" Though it be rare,
Loathe little fingers are letting it fall.

Last doth a stripling, bare in his pride,
Kneel by the Lover as if to abide:
"This have I wrought for Thee!" Answer him there
Laugh of a Child, and His arms opened wide.

Was a Soule from farre away
Stood wistful in the Hay,
And of the Babe a-sleeping hadde a sight:
Neither reck'd hee any more
Men behind him and before,
Nor a thousand busie Winges, flitting light:
But in middle of the night
This few-worded wight
(Yule! Yule!)
Bespake Our Lady bright:
"Fill mee, ere my corage faints,
With the lore of all the Saints:
Harte to harte against my Brother let mee be.
By the Fountaines that are His
I wo'd slumber where Hee is:
Prithee, Mother, give the other Brest to mee!"
The Soule that none co'd see
She hath taken on her knee:
(Yule! Yule!)
Sing praises to Our Ladye.

The Ox and the Ass,
Tell aloud of them:
Sing their pleasure as it was
In Bethlehem.
Still, as blowing rose, sudden as a sword,
Maidenly the Maiden bare Jesu Christ the Lord;
Yet for very lowlihood, such as a Guest to greet,
Goeth in a little swoon while kissing of His feet.

Mary, drifted snow on the earthen floor,
Joseph, fallen wondrous weak now he would adore,-
(Oh, the surging might of love! Oh, the drowning bliss!)
Both are rapt to Heaven and lose their human Heaven that is.

From the Newly Born trails a lonely cry.
With a mind to heed, the Ox turns a glowing eye;
In the empty byre the Ass thinks her heart to blame:
Up for comforting of God the beasts of burden came,

Softly to inquire, thrusting as for cheer
There between the tender hands, furry faces dear.
Blessing on the nonest coats! tawny coat and grey
Friended Our Delight so well when warmth had strayed away.

Crooks are on the still; sceptres sail the wave;
All the hopes of all the years are thronging to the Cave.
Mother slept not long, nor long Father's sense was dim,
But another twain the while stood parent-wise to Him.

The Ox and the Ass,
Be you glad for them
Such a moment came to pass
In Bethlehem!

– Louise Imogen Guiney
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan, 1947.


A Christmas Carol

Lacking samite and sable,
Lacking silver and gold,
The Prince Jesus in the poor stable
Slept, and was three hours old.

As doves by the fair water,
Mary, not touched of sin,
Sat by Him,- the King's daughter,
All glorious within.

A lily without one stain, a
Star where no spot hath room-
Ave, gratia plena,
Virgo Virginum.

Clad not in pearl-sewn vesture,
Clad not in cramoisie,
She hath hushed, she hath cradled to rest, her
God the first time on her knee.

Where is one to adore Him?
The ox hath dumbly confessed,
With the ass, meek kneeling before Him,
Et homo factus est.

Not throned on ivory or cedar,
Not crowned with a Queen's crown,
At her breast it is Mary shall feed her
Maker, from Heaven come down.

The trees in Paradise blossom
Sudden, and its bells chime-
She giveth Him, held to her bosom,
Her immaculate milk the first time.

The night with wings of angels
Was alight, and its snow-packed ways
Sweet made (say the Evangels)
With the noise of their virelays.
Quem vidistis, pastores?
Why go ye feet unshod?
Wot ye within yon door is
Mary, the Mother of God?

No smoke of spice ascending
There - no roses are piled -
But, choicer than all balms blending,
There Mary hath kissed her Child.

– May Probyn
Thérèse, M. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947.


Christmas Silence

Here in the cloister they who seek discover
A wandered fragment of the Christmas silence
That hid itself from the disquieted earth:
The silence of the Virgin bending over
The little Uncreated Innocence
Upon the bed of a most hidden birth,
The silence that was Joseph's sacrament
Through years that were a threshold to this hour
And which was seed and stem to the white flower
That blossomed on his rod,
The speechlessness of the unlettered shepherds
Who stood amazed before the Lamb of God.
The angels sang at Christmas, but their music
Was like a stillness to the inner ear,
And soft as petals from a shaken bough.

They who go walking in the Christmas silence
Through any season of the changing year
Come to a Man with peace upon his brow
And see the Mother and the Infant near.
This house, as once the Saint of Alcantara
Said of Teresa's, is the little hospice
Of Bethlehem.
Cloister or cave- its solitudes shall be
The dwelling of a human trinity
And they who enter learn a wordless language
And the Divine Untold addresses them.

– Jessica Powers
Fremantle, Anne. Christmas is Here: A Catholic Selection of Stories and Poems. New York: Stephen Daye Press, 1955.


As Dew in Aprille

I sing of a maiden
That is makeles:
King of all kings
To her son she ches.

He came al so stille
There his moder was,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the grass.

He came al so stille
To his moder's bour,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the flour.

He came al so stille
There his moder lay,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the spray.
Moder and maiden
Was never none but she:
Well may such a lady
Goddes moder be.

– Anonymous
Tudor, Tasha. Take Joy!: The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book. Cleveland: Collins and World, 1966.


The Cherry Tree Carol

Joseph was an old man,
An old man was he:
He married sweet Mary,
The Queen of Galilee.

As they went a walking
In the garden so gay,
Maid Mary spied cherries,
Hanging over yon tree.

Mary said to Joseph
With her sweet lips so mild,
"Pluck those cherries, Joseph,
For to give to my Child."

"O then," replied Joseph
With words so unkind,
"I will pluck no cherries
For to give to thy Child."

Mary said to cherry tree,
"Bow down to my knee,
That I may pluck cherries
By one, two, and three."

The uppermost sprig then
Bowed down to her knee:
"Thus you may see, Joseph,
These cherries are for me."

"O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries now,
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough."

As Joseph was a-walking
He heard the Angels sing,
This night there shall be born
Our heavenly king.

"He neither shall be born
In house nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox-stall.

"He shall not be clothed
In purple nor pall;
But all in fair linen,
As wear babies all.
"He shall not be rocked,
In silver nor gold,
But in a wooden cradle
That rocks on the mould.

"He neither shall be christened
In milk, nor in wine,
But in pure spring-well water
Fresh sprung from Bethine."

Mary took her Baby,
She dressed him so sweet,
She laid Him in a manger
All there for to sleep.

As she stood over Him
She heard Angels sing,
"Oh! bless our dear Savior,
Our heavenly King."

Traditional, Old English Air
Tudor, Tasha. Take Joy!: The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book. Cleveland: Collins and Ward, 1966.

As William Studwell points out, however, there is not a single "Cherry Tree Carol." Rather, this is a combination of three separate carols which later merged. The first carol, based on the above quoted exchange is "Joseph Was an Old Man." The second carol begins with the stanza "As Joseph Was A-Walking" (also known as Joseph and the Angel). Finally, there is an Easter carol, "Mary's Question," which begins with the stanza "Then Mary took her young Son."

Studwell writes "The truth of the matter is that there are a number of "Cherry Tree" carols so that instead of the very misleading singular form a multiple designation such as "The Cherry Tree Carols," or even better, "The Cherry Tree Carol Series" should be substituted.

Bradley notes that multiple theories exist concerning the symbolism of the carol. He writes, "Some folklorists point to the widespread use in folklore of the gift of a cherry, or similar fruit carrying its own seed, as a divine authentication of human fertility." He also notes the relationship between the eating of the fruit by Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the eating of cherries by Mary whose son would erase the transgression. He adds that some versions have Mary and Joseph walking through a garden, rather than an orchard, reinforcing the motif of the Garden of Eden.

It has also been noted that the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chapter 20, has a story that during their flight into Egypt, Mary sits beneath a palm tree and desires its dates, but is unable to reach them. Joseph is unable to climb the tree, but when Jesus intervenes, the tree bows down to give Mary the fruit.

Cecil Sharp captured six American versions that were published in English Folk Songs From the Southern Appalachians (1932):

As Joseph and Mary Were A-Walking the Green (Mrs. Tom Rice, 1916)
Joseph Were a Young Man (Mr. William, 1916)
When Joseph Was a Young Man (Mr. William Wooton, 1917)
Joseph Was a Young Man (Mrs. Margaret Dunagan, 1917)
Joseph Was a Young Man (Mrs. Alice and Mrs. Sudie Sloan, 1917)
Joseph Took Mary All on His Right Knee (Mrs. Townsley, 1917)


The First Christmas

When neither kings nor kin were there,
it mattered little, Mary Love,
just who was there or anywhere,
for Love Itself, for Love was there.

Full many were dismayed a King
could not afford more royal wear,
have nobles by, and glittering spears,
and a crown of gold for His hair.

No senates came with tribute due,
the most of men seemed not to care,
It mattered little, Mary Love,
for Love Itself, and you, were there.

Herbert, Albert Joseph. Mary, Our Blessed Lady. Exposition Press, 1970.


Christmas Madonna

The lights that fill Our Lady's eyes
Flood not from merely mortal skies.
Our Lady is the stirring word
Archangel Michael may have heard,
Pure Maiden in a Virgin's white,
Yet Mother throned on highest height.
Whose arms were nest God made His own,
Whose lap He fashioned for His throne;
Whose Motherhood is the one rose
Like which no other flower grows.
Although no mortal holds her place
Humbleness is sweet upon her face.
Because she holds One at her side
Her arms to all are Mother-wide;
For each tired heart calm on her breast
Is her own Son obtaining rest.
Each knows a kiss sweet with all grace
From lips that brush God's Infant face;
Each lives the golden childhood dream
That Beauty is and does not seem,
That by Her hearts might ever stay
And never note the passing day,
In joy of being by her side
As Jesus was at Christmastide.

I think though I would always sing
of Her, my song be futile thing.
For She is Music from Above,
But I pipe earthly notes of love.

For Our Lady of Perpetual Help, among the lights in Clonard Monastery Church, Belfast, Christmas (Blackout)
Hebert, Albert Joespeh. Mary, Our Blessed Lady. New York: Exposition Press, 1970.


Mary and the Innkeeper's Wife

As Mary wrapped the Child in swaddling bands
and laid him tenderly upon the straw,
her mind recalled the journey's harsh demands,
how she left behind the pale blue shawl,
the coverlet and matching small white hood,
the woolen gowns and shirts that she had sewed,
the cradle Joseph built of fine grained wood,
too burdensome for travel on the road.

The innkeeper's wife watched Mary and the Child,
her barrenness more poignant in her breast.
But as she hastened to the inn, she smiled,
and in her room she dusted off a chest.
With loving care she lifted out each thing...
her treasured dream, she knew, would befit a King.

– Marilyn Eynon Scott


 The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock
'Now they are all on their knees.'
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
'Come, see the oxen kneel.'
IN the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know
I should g with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

– Thomas Hardy (from a book of Christmas poems...)


A Story of Nativity

Timelessness once created time …
by word of Other!
Two earthlings embraced restlessness,
wanting no other
but themselves in a selfhood-ness.

Timelessness entering into time . . .
by Word of Other!
Then Timelessness was restless too …
(love's deep dimension),
breathing creation anew.

Mary challenged the dark chaos …
that Shalom lost; trusting Being --
lotus opened to Spirit-ness.

Earthling's feminine spoke her "yes"
Eve and Adam born with new light,
earthling's answer to Other-ness.

Woman trembles as life enfolds …
mother aching with Passion's gift,
Mary throbbing with Life Untold.

– Virginia Kimball, Christmas 2001


All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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