A Christmas Carol

At Bethlehem, that city blest
Did Our Lady take her rest
Mary, fair and undefiled
There conceived and bore a Child
      Mater santissima
      Ora pro nobis

And Saint Joseph, when he saw
Christ asleep upon the straw,
In great love he worshipped there
Mary and the Child she bore
      Ave plena gratia
      Ave Rosa Mundi

And the beasts that were around
Knelt upon the holy ground
And in dumb amazement they
Praised the Lord on Christmas Day
      Omnia O Opera
      Benedicite Dominum

But the ox that kneelèd down
Nearest to the manger-throne,
When Our Lady stroked his head,
He the Holy Credo said
      “De Maria Virgine
       Et est Homo factus”

And the shepherds that had heard
Of the coming of the Word
From the mouth of Gabriel
On their knees before Him fell
      Sunt beati pauperi
      Quorum Dei Regnum

Then the kings from out of the east
Started to the Birthday feast
Came and knelt, and, as is told,

~G.K. Chesterton (unfinished, ca. 1896—98)

Nativity, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Tempera on panel, c. 1492; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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