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MANZONI'S ODE ON THE NATIVITY.

As plunging down a mountain steep,
The loosen'd crag will headlong leap,

Left to its own wild will,-
But, having reached the mountain base,
And ended all that rocky race,

Lies helpless there, and still ;
Nor through the ages as they run,
Shall see again the morning sun

Upon that mountain's crest-
Unless some strange and friendly strength
Should lift and bear it up at length,

Back to its ancient rest.
So grovell’d helpless, fallen man,
Who down the steep of error ran,

And reached the fated woe;
Beneath a wrath he could not bear,
And weighted down with his despair,

His broken pride lay low.
And who among the fallen race
Could ever rise and sue for grace,

Or for redemption plead
Before that King who cannot dwell
Save in light inaccessible,

The Holy One indeed ?
Behold, to us a Child is born,
A Son is given to us who mourn;

Before His infant eye
The powers of darkness quail and flee;
He stoops to our humanity,

And lifts it to the sky.
From out the hills and homes of God
A wondrous river rises broad,

And in its downward flow,
Rude cliffs, with thorns and briars o'erspread,
Soft balm and liquid honey shed,

Sweet blossoms bud and blow.

O Son Divine, Eternal Guest,
In the Eternal Father's breast,

What world, however old,

In all the circling heaven's embrace,
Can lift its wrinkle-written face

To Thine, in challenge bold?

THOU ART! no star with Thee can share
That majesty beyond compare,

For Thou hast made them all;
Yet hast Thou deigned to take on Thee
The clay of our humanity,

All sullied with its fall.

O pity, wondrous as Thy love!
Immense, all human thought above!

What merit in our race
Thy deep and secret counsels moved,
That we so lost should be so loved,

And wrested from disgrace?
The Child is born: to Bethlehem-
Foretold by prophets, sung by them-

Went up a maiden mild ;
The Hope of Israel in her breast,
Thither she journeyed like the rest,

Great with the Promised Child.

There, when the natal hour was come,
In that poor hostel, far from home,

Her first-born Son she laid ;
In swaddling clothes she wrapped Him soft,
And kneeling by the manger, oft

Adored Him-blessed maid !

Before His Godhood worshipped she,
And to His hungering infancy

Her mother breast she gave;
While angels in the midnight sky,
Sung, Glory be to God on high,

For Christ has come to save.'

But not before the guarded gate
Of power, the herald angels wait

On worldly pride or wrong;
Where shepherds watch their sleeping fold,
That story of surprise is told,

In sudden light and song.
And round Him, through the breathing night,
Ten thousand angels, clothed in light,

And winged with love and flame,

In troops about His cradle press,
And in their songs celestial, bless

The glory of His name.

Then, following still their own sweet hymn,
Together light and song grow dim,

The distant clouds between;
Together fading as they go,
More musically soft and low,

Till neither heard nor seen.

So vanish they; and doubtless then,
Without delay, those happy men

To that poor stable sped;
And there the King of Heaven they knew,
Weeping as little children do,

Upon His manger-bed.

But sleep, O holy Infant, sleep!
No blasts that o'er Thy cradle sweep,

Would touch that tender form.
What winds would round Thee roughly blow,
Before Thy chariot used to go,

The coursers of the storm ?

Sleep on, O Heavenly Babe! as yet
The nations round Thee rage and fret,

And know not of Thy birth.
Sleep on! they all shall know one day,
That Child who in the manger lay
Was King of Heaven and earth.

M. C.

HERODION.

A CHRISTMAS BALLAD.

O’ER the golden summer palace* comes the winter stern and wild, Where they spread the silken awnings, rest the ice-drops undefiled.

Through the rifted clouds the moonlight gleams on lorn deserted floors, And the wintry wind moans sadly through the silver-columned doors.

* Herod's summer palace of Herodion stood on Bethlehem.

an eminence overlooking

In the throne-room builds the spider, birds of night come flitting by,
Where the loveliest and the bravest met so oft for revelry.

Mingles nought with gusty snow-storm and the sough of wintry wind, Save the tramp of those lone warders whom the King has left behind.

Slow the marble pavement pace they-now and then they gaze adown, Where the household lights come glinting from the peaceful country town.

One by one the lonely townsmen seek repose and peaceful dreams,
One by one each light extinguish, that from each low lattice gleams;
Save within yon cavern-stable, in yon hostel far below,
Where beside the rock-hewn manger, one pale flickering lamp doth glow.

Yet what recked King Herod's warders, in their armour bright arrayed, How beside her new-born infant sank to rest a peasant maid ?

All they thought, these courtier soldiers, was when some few months

were o'er, How that pomp and joy voluptuous through these halls would ring once

more.

Kingly pomp and mirth of courtiers-yet oh, Heaven ! and what are they To the sun-bright gleam that shimmers through the clouds of midnight

grey ?

Is it moonlight? Is it morning? Is it some swift meteor's glow?
Or some mighty conflagration, plunging half a land in woe!
Nay—the tranquil soft resplendence, with its argent lustre mild,
Cannot spring from glaring meteor or from conflagration wild.
With the dappled splendour mingle snowy plumes of angel-wings,
Of their shining hair the radiance, and of golden harps the strings.

Yet as paled the heavenly vision ’neath the garish light of day,
So from thought of Herod's soldiers passed the glorious sight away.

Simple swains had heard the anthem, 'Peace on earth, and mercy mild,' Shepherds meek obeyed the summons, sought and found the Heaven-born

Child.

Herod's soldiers had not heard it. Filled with dreams of worldly mirth, What to them were all the glories of the night of Jesus' birth?

Unsubstantial dreams they thought them—was it only thus to them?
No, till time shall end Herodion looks with scorn on Bethlehem.

JANET.

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