Sunday, December 25, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: The Friendly Beasts

A 12th Century French Carol

(Author unknown)



"Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow, all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for a bed;
I gave Him my hay to pillow His head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"Cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel."


Words of Old at Christmastime: "Ring Out, Wild Bells to the Wild Sky" by Alfred Tennyson

"Ring Out, Wild Bells, to the Wild Sky" (excerpt) (1850)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore

(First published 1823)

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas

"One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."

(Published 1952)
Click here for full story


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime:A Christmas Tree" by Charles Dickens


"I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects.

 There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; and there were real watches (with movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs, as if in preparation for some fairy housekeeping; there were jolly, broad-faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men — and no wonder, for their heads took off, and showed them to be full of sugar-plums; 

There were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, and all kinds of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets and pincushions in all devices; there were guns, swords, and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation-cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whispered to another pretty child, her bosom friend, “There was everything, and more.” 

This motley collection of odd objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the bright looks directed towards it from every side — some of the diamond-eyes admiring it were hardly on a level with the table, and a few were languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses — made a lively realisation of the fancies of childhood; and set me thinking how all the trees that grow and all the things that come into existence on the earth, have their wild adornments at that well-remembered time.

(paragraphs added for clarity)

Published 1850
Click here for full story


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Words of Old at Christmastime: "Beggar Boy at Christ’s Christmas Tree" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

"I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.  

I have a vision of a boy, a little boy, six years old or even younger. This boy woke up that morning in a cold damp cellar. He was dressed in a sort of little dressing-gown and was shivering with cold. There was a cloud of white steam from his breath, and sitting on a box in the corner, he blew the steam out of his mouth and amused himself in his dullness watching it float away. But he was terribly hungry. Several times that morning he went up to the plank bed where his sick mother was lying on a mattress as thin as a pancake, with some sort of bundle under her head for a pillow."

Published 1876)
Click here for full story 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: The Christmas Monks by Mary E. Wilkins

All children have wondered unceasingly from their very first Christmas up to their very last Christmas, where the Christmas presents come from. It is very easy to say that Santa Claus brought them. All well regulated people know that, of course; but the reindeer, and the sledge, and the pack crammed with toys, the chimney, and all the rest of it — that is all true, of course, and everybody knows about it; but that is not the question which puzzles. 

What children want to know is, where do these Christmas presents come from in the first place? Where does Santa Claus get them? Well the answer to that is, In the garden of the Christmas Monks. This has not been known until very lately; that is, it has not been known till very lately except in the immediate vicinity of the Christmas Monks. There, of course, it has been known for ages. It is rather an out-of-the-way place; and that accounts for our never hearing of it before.

Published 1892
Click here for full story

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "Christmas at Orchard House" by Louisa May Alcott


“Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

Published 1868

Click here for full story 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Arthur Conan Doyle


"I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack withing his reach upon the right, and 

a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the purpose of examination."

Published 1892. Click here for full story

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastine: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry


"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. 
That was all. And sixty cents of it 
was in pennies. Pennies saved 
one and two at a time by bulldozing 
the grocer and the vegetable man 
and the butcher until one's cheeks 
burned with the silent imputation 
of parsimony that such close dealing
implied. Three times Della counted it.
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. 
And the next day would be Christmas."

Published 1905.
Click here for full story.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" by L. Frank Baum


"Santa Claus lives in the 
Laughing Valley, where stands 
the big rambling castle in which 
his toys are manufactured. His 
workmen, selected from the 
ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, 
live with him, and everyone is 
as busy as can be from 
one year's end to another."

First Published 1904.
Click  here for full story. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: Christmas Greeting from a Fairy to a Child by Lewis Carroll

LADY dear, if Fairies may
For a moment lay aside
Cunning tricks and elfish play,
'Tis at happy Christmas-tide.

We have heard the children say---
Gentle children, whom we love---
Long ago, on Christmas-Day,
Came a message from above.

Still, as Christmas-tide comes round,
They remember it again---
Echo still the joyful sound
"Peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Yet the hearts must child-like be
Where such heavenly guests abide;
Unto children, in their glee,
All the year is Christmas-tide.

Thus forgetting tricks and play
For a moment, Lady dear,
We would wish you, if we may,
Merry Christmas, glad New Year!

~Lewis Carroll

Published 1884

Below is a special holiday treat from Germany, 
by composer and Lewis Carroll fan Carson Braun.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: Cock-Crow at Christmas, William Shakespeare

Excerpt from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare (1603)


"And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine: and of the truth herein
This present object made probation."



"It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: The Little Match-Girl by Hans Christian Andersen


"It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling,  and it was almost dark. Evening came on,  the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot,  was walking through the streets."

First published 1845.
Click here for full story. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "Is There a Santa Claus?"

Excerpt from letter to the editor, The New York Sun, 1897:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

"Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see."

(Click here for full story)
Excerpt reprinted from editorial September 21, 1897, The New York Sun.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "Christmas Every Day" by William Dean Howells


"The little girl came into her papa's study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:

"Well, once there was a little pig--"

She put her hand over his mouth and stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig stories till she was perfectly sick of them.

"Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?"

"About Christmas. It's getting to be the season. It's past Thanksgiving already."

"It seems to me," her papa argued, "that I've told as often about Christmas as I have about little pigs."

"No difference! Christmas is more interesting.""

Click here for full story
First published 1892

Wild at Heart by Terri Farley: Book Review

Wild at Heart
Author: Terri Farley
Photographer: Melissa Farlow
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 10-14, Middle Grade nonfiction
Pages: 196

Velma Johnston of Nevada (some called her “Wild Horse Annie") developed a special love of wild horses in her youth. In 1950, she witnessed the roundup of wild mustangs for slaughter on state land. Horse meat for dog food had become a profitable business. The roundups were bloody and vicious, with no regard for horse families and nursing foals. Having suffered from crippling polio as a girl, Velma understood pain and couldn't bear to see the wild mustangs she loved mistreated. She spoke out against the practice, and as a result, a new state law protecting the horses was passed, but horse hunters simply moved the practice to public lands where the slaughter continued. Cattlemen in particular supported roundups because they freed up grazing land.

Seeking new support, Velma requested help from U.S. schoolchildren nationwide. Students began writing letters to the U.S. Congress, exposing the plight of wild mustangs. Successful once again, a law was passed in 1971 to protect the mustangs and burros. Henceforth, they would be “living symbols of the historic pioneer spirit of the West” forever and free to roam public lands under the protection of an agency called the Bureau of Land Management. However, the agency failed to protect the mustangs when a later decision was made that drastically reduced the acreage on which the animals could roam.

Today, wild mustangs continue to suffer in roundups and are considered an endangered species, but a steady group of horse-loving youth have followed in Velma's footsteps to carry on the fight. Farley shares their stories and shows the positive influence the wild mustang has made on their lives personally. Readers learn the history of horses in America and more about wild horse culture. The pages are filled with gorgeous photography throughout, making this a lovely book for horse lovers everywhere.