ITALIAN CHRISTMAS POETRY
Our King, before ages sent His Beloved Son from on high, and He was born of the Blessed Virgin, holy Mary.
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This is the day which the Lord
hath made : let us rejoice and be
glad in it. For the beloved and most holy Child has been given to us and
born for us by the wayside. And laid in a manger because He
had no room in the inn. Glory to God in the highest : and
on earth peace to men of good will." "
It is in the poetry of Jacopone da Todi, born shortly after the death of St. Francis, that the Franciscan Christmas spirit finds its most intense expression. A wild, wandering ascetic, an impassioned poet, and a soaring mystic, Jacopone is one of the greatest of Christian singers, unpolished as his verses are. Noble by birth, he made himself utterly as the common people for whom he piped his rustic notes. "Dio fatto piccino" ("God made a little thing") is the keynote of his music ; the Christ Child is for him " our sweet little brother"; with tender affection he rejoices in endearing diminutives—" Bambolino," " Piccolino," "Jesulino." He sings of the Nativity with extraordinary realism.* Here, in words, is a picture of the Madonna and her Child that might well have inspired an early Tuscan artist :—
" Veggiamo il suo Bambino Gammettare nel fieno, E le braccia scoperte Porgere ad ella in seno,
* It is difficult to be sure of the authenticity of the verse attributed to Jacopone. Many of the poems in Tresatti's edition, from which the quotations in the text are taken, may be the work of his followers.