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Let all things now be new to me,
And teach me that new song
J. G. SMALL. We have heard the poets celebrate the birthday of the Christ-child, with all its hallowed, endearing, and joyful associations; we have seen how they rejoiced at the birth of a new year; let us now listen to their welcomings of the birthdays of those whom the Christ-child came to redeem.
THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE VOYAGE.
SUNG OVER THE CRADLE OF A NEW-BORN INFANT. Behold, my friends, this bark of tiny mould,
But newly launch'd on life's uncertain sea; A gentle passenger the skiff doth hold:
Ah, shall not we its crew and pilot be? The waves to lift it from the strand prevail,
Which now it leaves for ever in its rear; Let us who see the little bark set sail,
With our gay songs its onward voyage cheer.
Already Hope the silken cordage binds,
Of waves propitious and of favouring winds.
A noble galley of the loves is here, Let us, who see the little bark set sail,
With our gay songs its onward voyage cheer. The masts are all with rosy wreaths array'd
By sportive Cupid's light and nimble hands; To the fair Graces offerings rich are made,
And steady Friendship at the rudder stands.
Nor, with red wine, will jovial Bacchus fail;
Nor Pleasure, once invoked, fail to appear ; Let us, who see the little bark set sail,
With our gay songs its onward voyage cheer. Once more, to hail our galley, comes in haste
Misfortune : rescued now from want and woe, She prays that every joy the babe may taste Which those who bind the wounded heart can
know. Sure that each fervent prayer that loads the gale
The God who guards the sleeping babe shall hear, Let us, who see the little bark set sail, With our gay songs its onward voyage cheer.
FROM THE FRENCH OF BÉRANGER.
Martin F. Tupper tells us that A babe in a house is a well-spring of pleasure, a
messenger of peace and love: A resting-place for innocence on earth, a link be
tween angels and men. Yet it is a talent of trust, a loan to be rendered back
with interest; A delight, but redolent of care ; honey-sweet, but
lacking not the bitter ; For character groweth day by day, and all things
aid it in unfolding, And the bent unto good or evil may be given in the
hours of infancy; For disposition is builded up by the fashioning of
first impressions : Wherefore, though the voice of instruction waiteth
for the ear of reason, Yet with his mother's milk the young child drinketh
That eminent Oriental scholar, Sir William Jones, among his admirable paraphrases from Eastern languages, has this striking verse : On parent knees, a naked new-born child, Weeping thou sat'st while all around thee smiled; So live, that sinking in thy last long sleep, Calm thou may'st smile, while all around thee weep.
Looking on this new-born child, does not the heart say
Joy thou bring'st, but mix'd with trembling;
Anxious joys and tender fears,
Smiles of transport dash'd with tears.
There is much sweetness and tenderness, as well as piety, in that old song by George Wither, who was born in 1588:
SWEET BABY, SLEEP!
What ails my darling thus to cry?
To hear me sing thy lullaby.
Thou blessèd soul, what canst thou fear?
What thing to thee can mischief do?
His holy Spouse thy mother too.
Though thy conception was in sin,
A sacred bathing thou hast had;
A blameless babe thou now art made.
While thus thy lullaby I sing,
For thee great blessings ripening be;
And hath a kingdom bought for thee ;
Sweet baby, sleep, and nothing fear;
For whosoever thee offends
And God and angels are thy friends.
When God with us was dwelling here,
In little babes He took delight; Such innocents as thou, my dear,
Are ever precious in his sight. Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep; Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep!
A little infant once was He,
And, strength in weakness, then was laid Upon his virgin-mother's knee,
That power to thee might be convey'd. Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep; Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep!
In this thy frailty and thy need,
He friends and helpers doth prepare, Which thee shall cherish, clothe, and feed,
For of thy weal they tender are. Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep; Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep!
The King of kings, when He was born,
Had not so much for outward ease;
Nor such-like swaddling-clothes as these.
Within a manger lodged the Lord,
Where oxen lay and asses fed :
An easy cradle for a bed.
The wants that He did then sustain,
Have purchased wealth, my babe, for thee. And by his torments and his pain,
Thy rest and ease secured be.
Thou hast, yet more to perfect this,
A promise and an earnest got Of gaining everlasting bliss,
Though thou, my babe, perceiv'st it not. Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep; Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep!