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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
A Christmas Hymn, 1837
By Alfred Domett (1811–1887)
 
IT was the calm and silent night!—
  Seven hundred years and fifty-three
Had Rome been growing up to might,
  And now was Queen of land and sea!
No sound was heard of clashing wars;        5
  Peace brooded o’er the hush’d domain;
Apollo, Pallas, Jove and Mars
  Held undisturb’d their ancient reign,
      In the solemn midnight,
          Centuries ago!        10
 
’Twas in the calm and silent night!
  The senator of haughty Rome
Impatient urged his chariot’s flight
  From lordly revel rolling home.
Triumphal arches gleaming swell        15
  His breast with thought of boundless sway.
What reck’d the Roman what befell
  A paltry province far away,
      In the solemn midnight,
          Centuries ago?        20
 
Within that province far away
  Went plodding home a weary boor:
A streak of light before him lay,
  Fall’n thro’ a half-shut stable door
Across his path. He pass’d—for naught        25
  Told what was going on within:
How keen the stars! his only thought;
  The air how cold and calm and thin,
      In the solemn midnight
          Centuries ago!        30
 
O strange indifference!—low and high
  Drowsed over common joys and cares:
The earth was still—but knew not why;
  The world was listening—unawares;
How calm a moment may precede        35
  One that shall thrill the world for ever!
To that still moment none would heed
  Man’s doom was link’d, no more to sever,
      In the solemn midnight
          Centuries ago.        40
 
It is the calm and solemn night!
  A thousand bells ring out and throw
Their joyous peals abroad, and smite
  The darkness, charm’d and holy now!
The night that erst no name had worn,        45
  To it a happy name is given;
For in that stable lay new-born
  The peaceful Prince of Earth and Heaven,
      In the solemn midnight
          Centuries ago.        50
 
 
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