Christmas 2014: “A Carol for Children”

One year ago, we posted “A Carol for Children,” an Ogden Nash poem published in The New Yorker in December, 1935 and reprinted by The New York Times as its lead editorial on Christmas Day, 1978. The poem spoke to the troubled times of those years and we felt that it was equally appropriate to 2013. Twelve months later, we cannot escape the feeling that its message is more fitting than ever.

A Carol for Children

God rest you, merry Innocents,
Let nothing you dismay,
Let nothing wound an eager heart
Upon this Christmas Day.

Yours be the genial holly wreaths,
The stockings and the tree;
An aged world to you bequeaths
Its own forgotten glee.

Soon, soon enough come crueler gifts,
The anger and the tears;
Between you now there sparsely drifts
A handful yet of years.

Oh dimly, dimly glows the star
Through the electric throng;
The bidding in temple and bazaar
Drowns out the silver song.

The ancient altar smokes afresh,
The ancient idols stir;
Faint in the reek of burning flesh
Sink frankincense and myrrh.

Gaspar, Balthasar, Melchior!
Where are your offerings now?
What greetings to the Prince of War,
His darkly branded brow?

Two ultimate laws alone we know,
The ledger and the sword –
So far away, so long ago,
We lost the infant Lord.

Only the children clasp his hand;
His voice speaks low to them,
And still for them the shining band
Wings over Bethlehem.

God rest you, merry Innocents,
While innocence endures.
A sweeter Christmas than we to ours
May you bequeath to yours.

                  * * * *

If we have started a tradition, it is one that we would frankly like to dispense with as soon as possible. Let us hope that the world does not have to wait for the days of its children’s children to enjoy sweeter Christmases.

Finally, while we do not hesitate to extend to everyone our personal “Merry Christmas,” we recognize that the values of Christmas we hold dear—peace, love and reconciliation—are not the exclusive province of one religion or indeed of all religions. So we hope that everyone will embrace the Christmas spirit and mark the occasion in ways that are meaningful to them.

6 thoughts on “Christmas 2014: “A Carol for Children”

  • Doug, I wonder if the new Pope, Francis, reads Ogden Nash. He certainly seems to embrace the sentiments expressed.

    • Parker, The truth is the truth..May much joy, peace and contentment be the lots of our heirs. And may we keep the spirit of Christmas in our old minds all year long. The Laird

  • Well done Doug..thank you for the reminder in the rhyme and rhythm of poetry and one’s own voice…Merry Christmas. L

  • Amen to that, and let us hope and pray for peace within ourselves if the larger goal for the world at large seems to be beyond our grasp. A Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year to all.

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