And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 KJV)
Words by May R. Smith (1842-1927).
Music: St. Petersburg, attributed to Dmitri S. Bortniansky (1751-1825), 1825
The Day The Christ-Child’s Tender Eyes
The day the Christ-child’s tender eyes
Unveiled their beauty on the earth,
God lit a new star in the skies
To flash the message of His birth;
And wise men read the glowing sign,
And came to greet the Child divine.
Low kneeling in the stable’s gloom,
Their precious treasures they unrolled;
The place was rich with sweet perfume;
Upon the floor lay gifts of gold.
And thus adoring they did bring
To Christ the earliest offering.
I think no nimbus wreathed the head
Of the young King so rudely throned;
The quilt of hay beneath Him spread
The sleepy kine beside Him owned;
And here and there in the torn thatch
The sky thrust in a starry patch.
Oh, when was new-born monarch shrined
Within such canopy as this?
The birds have cradles feather lined;
And for their new babes princesses
Have sheets of lace without a flaw,
His pillow was a wisp of straw!
He chose this way, it may have been,
That those poor mothers, everywhere,
Whose babies in the world’s great inn
Find scanty cradle-room and fare,
As did the Babe of Bethlehem,
May find somewhat to comfort them.
May Riley Smith (1842-1927) – Smith attended the Tracey Female Institute in Rochester, and the Collegiate Institute in Brockport, New York. She married Albert Smith of Springfield, Illinois, in 1869; they were living in New York state in 1910. Her works include:
The Gift of Gentians, 1882
The Inn of Rest, 1888
Sometime and Other Poems, 1892
Dmitri S. Bortniansky (1751-1825) – Bortniansky’s musical career began in the church choir. As a young man, he studied with Baldassare Galuppi (il Buranello) in St. Petersburg. In 1769, Bortniansky followed Galuppi to Italy (with the help of a stipend from Russian Empress Catherine) to work in opera. His productions included Creonte (1776), Alcide (1778), and Quinto Fabio (1778). After returning to Russia, he became master of the court choir in St. Petersburg. In 1796, he was appointed director of the czar’s court chapel and a councilor of state. In addition to his other duties, he composed liturgical music, and wrote operas with French texts: La fête du seigneur (1786), Le faucon (1786), and Le fils-rival (1787). After his death, his work spread to Prussia, where his music appeared in Altpreußische Agende (Old Prussian Agenda) in 1829. His tune St. Petersburg/Wells is a traditional closing piece for the Großer Zapfenstreich (ceremonial tattoo) in German military music.
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