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A Wiltshire Carol - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
A Wiltshire Carol

Said the White Horse on the hillside,
‘Whither goest, Brother Ox?’
Brother Thomas made him answer:
‘Lo, the shepherds leave their flocks;
Brother Francis, in his stable,
Sad of eye and long of ear,
He hath hailed me; I go thither,
To a new light, pure and clear.’

The grey donkey, Brother Francis,
Patient as henge, hill, or star,
Waited Thomas, best of oxen,
By the Bethl’em manger far;
Ox and ass were called together
To stand witness to the Birth
That should save the world from weeping,
And turn sadness into mirth;

Water-meadow, plain, and hillside,
And the pinfold for the sheep,
Were deserted on this still night
Whilst the mighty were asleep:
Ox and ass and wise-eyed wether,
Humble shepherds, lowly men,
With their sheepdogs and the angels
Flocked to sacred Bethlehem:

Only on the great green hillside
Did the White Horse in his pride
Fail to heed the Saviour’s calling
And in selfish dreams abide.
Brother Francis, Brother Thomas,
Angels, shepherds, sheepdogs, sheep,
Kept the sacred watch unsleeping
Which the White Horse would not keep.

Long ago now was that midnight
And for quite as long hath he,
The proud horse upon the chalk downs,
Paid his living penalty:
Turned to chalk upon the hillside,
Nevermore to freely walk,
All for that he would not heed them
That had called him from the chalk;

Thus the White Horse on the hillside;
Thus the doom that Gabriel,
Herald of the King of Heaven,
Gave out, and it so befell:
All are called; if few are chosen,
Who have chosen not to heed
Have their own ill choices taken,
Spurning help amidst their need.

Patient donkeys, patient oxen,
Bearers of the lightened load,
In each stable and each meadow
Keep the grace of that abode
That once sheltered in their presence
Heaven’s King, come down to save,
Whilst the chalk horse on the hillside
No more runs than in the grave.

Answer always we when beckoned,
Lest we know the chalk-horse fate;
Follow we the stars and angels
To the narrow, open gate.
Freedom on the Downs is worthy;
Service is the greater right:
The yoke of God is passing easy
Who alone makes burdens light.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: December 22nd, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had not read this is many years. Beautiful!

Thanks for the quiet moment!


Edit: I went to look for this where I thought I'd read it previously and discovered they are not the same at all. Similar certainly but not the same. But this is wonderful in any case. Boy how our memories fail after 50!

Edited at 2012-12-22 07:30 pm (UTC)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 28th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

And how wd you know that, infant?

You're ageless.

And, thank you.
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: December 28th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: And how wd you know that, infant?

It really isn't the years so much as the mileage.
naadi From: naadi Date: December 22nd, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was lovely. Thanks for posting it! ^.^
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 28th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

I'm glad it pleased.
eglantine_br From: eglantine_br Date: December 22nd, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the portrayal of the ox and the donkey. Yes, patient and kind.

The wise eyed wether makes me smile. When I was a kid my mother was quite nautical in her speech. (Read a lot of Pat O'Brian,) she would talk about keeping a 'weather eye' on things.

I always thought she was saying 'wether eye.' And that it referred to sheep. Well, sheep do watch things carefully, after all.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 28th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)


Chestertonian of me, but I can never resist making the ox, Thomas, and the donkey, Francis. I'm rejoiced that you liked it.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: December 23rd, 2012 12:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Ode to Joy, right?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 28th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

That'd work.

And I gave you sheep!
From: tree_and_leaf Date: December 23rd, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, splendid.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 28th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)


Vy kind of you - as aye.
11 comments or Leave a comment