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Browning’s "Christmas Eve"
by [?]

A coolness and delight visit us, on turning over the page and commencing to read the description of sky, and moon, and clouds, which greet him outside the chapel. It is as a vision of the vision-bearing world itself, in one of its fine, though not, at first, one of its rarest moods. And here a short digression to notice like feelings in unlike dresses, one thought differently expressed will, perhaps, be pardoned. The moon is prevented from shining out by the “blocks” of cloud “built up in the west:”–

“And the empty other half of the sky
Seemed in its silence as if it knew
What, any moment, might look through
A chance-gap in that fortress massy.”

Old Henry Vaughan says of the “Dawning:”–

“The whole Creation shakes off night,
And for thy shadow looks the Light;
Stars now vanish without number,
Sleepie Planets set and slumber,
The pursie Clouds disband and scatter,
All expect some sudden matter.”

Calmness settles down on his mind. He walks on, thinking of the scene he had left, and the sermon he had heard. In the latter he sees the good and the bad intimately mingled; and is convinced that the chief benefit derived from it is a reproducing of former impressions. The thought crosses him, in how many places and how many different forms the same thing takes place, “a convincing” of the “convinced;” and he rejoices in the contrast which his church presents to these; for in the church of Nature his love to God, assurance of God’s love to him, and confidence in the design of God regarding him, commenced. While exulting in God and the knowledge of Him to be attained hereafter, he is favoured with a sight of a glorious moon-rainbow, which elevates his worship to ecstasy. During which–

“All at once I looked up with terror–
He was there.
He himself with His human air,
On the narrow pathway, just before:
I saw the back of Him, no more–
He had left the chapel, then, as I.
I forgot all about the sky.
No face: only the sight
Of a sweepy garment, vast and white,
With a hem that I could recognize.
I felt terror, no surprise:
My mind filled with the cataract,
At one bound, of the mighty fact.
I remembered, He did say
Doubtless, that, to this world’s end,
Where two or three should meet and pray,
He would be in the midst, their friend:
Certainly He was there with them.
And my pulses leaped for joy
Of the golden thought without alloy,
That I saw His very vesture’s hem.
Then rushed the blood back, cold and clear,
With a fresh enhancing shiver of fear.”

Praying for forgiveness wherein he has sinned, and prostrate in adoration before the form of Christ, he is “caught up in the whirl and drift” of his vesture, and carried along with him over the earth.

Stopping at length at the entrance of St. Peter’s in Rome, he remains outside, while the form disappears within. He is able, however, to see all that goes on, in the crowded, hushed interior. It is high mass. He has been carried at once from the little chapel to the opposite aesthetic pole. From the entry, where–

“The flame of the single tallow candle
In the cracked square lanthorn I stood under
Shot its blue lip at me,”

“This miraculous dome of God–
This colonnade
With arms wide open to embrace
The entry of the human race
To the breast of…. what is it, yon building,
Ablaze in front, all paint and gilding,
With marble for brick, and stones of price
For garniture of the edifice?”