Our Patrick Henry Chorale did a Christmas program, a “Lessons & Carols” service, which consists of Bible readings interspersed with Christmas songs, held at the local Episcopal church. They did splendidly. One of their numbers was from Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, a musical version of Robert Southwell’s “This Little Babe.” Southwell was a 17th century metaphysical poet of the sort I specialize in, but I had forgotten this poem:
This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field, his naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries, his arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need and feeble Flesh his warrior’s steed.
His camp is pitchèd in a stall, his bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystacks his stakes; of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound, the angels’ trump alarum sound.
My soul, with Christ join thou in fight, stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward, this little Babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy.
This has inspired me to post some more Christmas literature over the next weeks of Advent, so watch for those.