Christmas 2017: A Carol for Children

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For the fifth Christmas in the history of, I am posting Ogden Nash’s 1935 poem, “A Carol for Children,” and it seems as fitting as ever.

Christmas last year came in the wake of the heartbreaking tragedy of Aleppo and the vicious attack on the Christmas Market in Berlin. This year it arrives amid the grim and escalating threat of war with North Korea. We remain very far away from the ideal of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

As many will recall, Nash’s poem is not a “merry” one at all and the tradition of publishing it is one that I would like to find reason to discontinue. Yet despite its tone of melancholy, and even despair, the poem concludes on a note of hope for a better world for our children and generations to come. It is that note of hope readers are encouraged to take with them.

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.

* * * *

While Christmas is a uniquely special day for Christians, the values it proclaims—peace, love and reconciliation—are not the exclusive province of one religion or indeed of all religions. Thus, one hopes that believers and non-believers alike might embrace the Christmas spirit and celebrate the occasion in a way that is meaningful to each. Indeed, as suggested in past years, it would be a particularly appropriate time for those of us who are Christians to extend our hands of friendship to the millions of Muslims in this country and around the world who reject the violence of a few and who yearn for peace no less than we do.

9 thoughts on “Christmas 2017: A Carol for Children

  • Thsnks so much for your uplifting comments as well as Nash’s great poem. One hopes that more and more people will recognize their common humanity and work to rid the world of war and needless suffering.

    Tis the season to be merry.

  • Ogden Nash lives, thanks to your book; “The Life and Works of America’s Laureate of Light Verse”. My wife and I were glad you suggested it some years back. — Happy Holidays! Stay young of heart.

  • Nice touch Doug. I remain strong in my belief that the center will hold as it has throughout our history

  • Doug, you are a good (decent and thoughtful) man. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Keep up the good work.


  • Only, and until all the world’s people share the three basic dreams of mankind…….Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness will we realize our potential
    And that is not “ The Impossible Dream,”
    Let us all pray, that in spite of what appears to be insurmountable, we will endure.

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