THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
things. Gleams of great beauty are, however, sometimes found amid matter that in the process of transmission has almost ceased to be poetry. Here, for instance, are five stanzas from the traditional " Cherry-tree Carol " :—
"As Joseph was a-walking, He heard an angel sing : 'This night shall be born Our heavenly King.
' He neither shall be born
In housen nor in hall, Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox's stall.
' He neither shall be clothed
In purple nor in pall, But all in fair linen
As wear babies all.
'He neither shall be rocked
In silver nor in gold, But in a wooden cradle
That rocks on the mould,
' He neither shall be christened
In white wine nor red, But with fair spring water
With which we were christened."
The old carols sung by country folk have often not much to do with the Nativity ; they are sometimes rhymed lives of Christ or legends of the Holy Childhood. Of the latter class the strangest is "The Bitter Withy," discovered in Herefordshire by Mr. Frank Sidgwick. It tells how the little Jesus asked three lads to play with Him at ball. But they refused : —
" ' O wc are lords' and ladies' sons, Born in bower or in hall ; And you are but a poor maid's child, Born in an oxen's stall.'