Monday, December 22, 2008

Less well-known Christmas things

I'll probably have only a couple of posts directly related to Christmas. I'm enjoying everybody else's Christmas stuff so much. But here are a couple of things that may be a little less familiar to people for Christmas.

First, Charles Dickens's novella "The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain." Here is a Google books edition in the public domain. This story deserves, in my opinion, to be made into at least one really good movie, just like "A Christmas Carol" (which I also love). I won't give away too much of the plot, but it concerns a chemistry professor who comes to believe, in his pride and bitterness, that people would all be happier if they could lose their memories of sorrow, wrong, and trouble. He is offered the opportunity to give up his own such memories, and he accepts the bargain. But he is given yet further the power of spreading this forgetfulness to other people by his presence. Eventually, as you can well imagine, he comes to regret his decision and still more to regret horribly his ability to bestow this "gift" on other people without their knowledge or consent. The entire story takes place at Christmas time, and the hero of the story is a young married woman named Milly who has been saddened by the death of her only child in infancy.

I tried to find a youtube or other recording of the unfamiliar but lovely Christmas carol "Here Betwixt Ass and Oxen Mild," but unfortunately I can't even find a cyberhymnal midi version. If you have a copy of the Episcopal 1940 hymnal, be sure to look it up. It's well worth it.

Here are the words and music to "Sing, O Sing, This Blessed Morn," a Christmas carol I'd never heard before becoming familiar with Anglican hymns. (The tune is also sometimes sung with the words to "For the Beauty of the Earth.") These words are truly great. Verse 4 is especially excellent:

God comes down that man may rise
Lifted by him to the skies.
Christ is Son of Man that we
Sons of God in him may be.
Sing, O sing, this blessed morn,
Jesus Christ today is born.

And finally, here is a high school choir singing Bach's "Break Forth, O Beauteous, Heavenly Light." Great parts.