Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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introduced are the Virgin, St. Joseph, St. Gabriel, St. Michael, St. Raphael, another angel, and three shepherds.40
Touched by the spirit of the Renaissance, and particularly by the influence of Virgil, is Juan del Encina of Salamanca (1469-1534), court poet to the Duke of Alba, and author of two Christmas eclogues. 41 The first introduces four shepherds who bear the names of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and are curiously mixed personages, their words being half what might be expected from the shepherds of Bethlehem and half sayings proper only to the authors of the Gospels. It ends with a villancico or carol. The second eclogue is far more realistic, and indeed resembles the English and French pastoral scenes. The shepherds grumble about the weather — it has been raining for two months, the floods are terrible, and no fords or bridges are left; they talk of the death of a sacristan, a fine singer ; and they play a game with chestnuts ; then comes the angel—whom one of them calls a " smartly dressed lad" (garzon replcado)—to tell them of the Birth, and they go to adore the Child, taking Him a kid, butter-cakes, eggs, and other presents.
Infinitely more ambitious is " The Birth of Christ "42 by the great Lope de Vega (1562-1635). It opens in Paradise, immediately after the Creation, and ends with the adoration of the Three Kings. Full of allegorical conceits and personified qualities, it will hardly please the taste of modern minds. Another work of Lope's, " The Shepherds of Bethlehem," a long pastoral in prose and verse, published in 1612, contains, amid many incongruities, some of the best of his shorter poems ; one lullaby, sung by the Virgin in a palm-grove while her Child sleeps, has been thus translated by Ticknor :—
" Holy angels and blest,
Through these palms as ye sweep, Hold their branches at rest, For my babe is asleep.
And ye Bethlehem palm-trees, As stormy winds rush 149
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