So here it is – Merry Christmas! I sit here on Christmas Day morning 2018 wondering whether it’s still too early to crack open a bottle of prosecco, thinking of turkey to come and with carols playing in the background – and of course there’s a plentiful supply of Brontë books within reach!
Christmas should be a time of fun and joy, full of music and laughter, and it seems it was often like this at the Haworth parsonage we all know and love. Bands and singers would travel to the larger houses and the village inns, spreading festive cheer in return for a few coins, a drink and maybe a mince pie or two. We get a glimpse from Emily Brontë in her ‘Wuthering Heights‘ as the Gimmerton Band comes a-calling:
‘In the evening we had a dance. Cathy begged that he [Heathcliff] might be liberated then, as Isabella Linton had no partner; her entreaties were in vain, and I was appointed to supply the deficiency. We got rid of all gloom in the excitement of the exercise, and our pleasure was increased by the arrival of the Gimmerton band, mustering fifteen strong: a trumpet, a trombone, clarionets, bassoons, French horns, and a bass viol, besides singers. They go the rounds of all the respectable houses, and receive contributions every Christmas, and we esteemed it a first-rate treat to hear them. After the usual carols had been sung, we set them to songs and glees. Mrs Earnshaw loved the music, and so they gave us plenty.’
Anne Brontë too loved music at Christmas, and we can imagine Anne standing by the piano on this special day and singing along with her sweet voice as Emily played a Christmas refrain. I wish you all, and your families a Happy Christmas and Yuletide – without you reading this blog it wouldn’t exist, so I thank you all! I leave you, as my tradition dictates, with Anne Brontë’s poem ‘Music On Christmas Morning’:
“Music I love – but never strain
Could kindle raptures so divine,
So grief assuage, so conquer pain,
And rouse this pensive heart of mine –
As that we hear on Christmas morn,
Upon the wintry breezes born.
Though Darkness still her empire keep,
And hours must pass, ere morning break;
From troubled dreams, or slumbers deep,
That music kindly bids us wake:
It calls us, with an angel’s voice,
To wake, and worship, and rejoice;
To greet with joy the glorious morn,
Which angels welcomed long ago,
When our redeeming Lord was born,
To bring the light of Heaven below;
The Powers of Darkness to dispel,
And rescue Earth from Death and Hell.
While listening to that sacred strain,
My raptured spirit soars on high;
I seem to hear those songs again
Resounding through the open sky,
That kindled such divine delight,
In those who watched their flocks by night.
With them – I celebrate His birth –
Glory to God, in highest Heaven,
Good will to men, and peace on Earth,
To us a saviour-king is given;
Our God is come to claim His own,
And Satan’s power is overthrown!
A sinless God, for sinful men,
Descends to suffer and to bleed;
Hell must renounce its empire then;
The price is paid, the world is freed.
And Satan’s self must now confess,
That Christ has earned a Right to bless:
Now holy Peace may smile from heaven,
And heavenly Truth from earth shall spring:
The captive’s galling bonds are riven,
For our Redeemer is our king;
And He that gave his blood for men
Will lead us home to God again.”