Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

'How Far is it to Bethlehem?'...

This will be my final post before Xmas. This year I thought that my Festive contribution should be something a little bit more uplifting than Grizzlebeard's earnest wish that all his enemies might go to hell!

Frances Chesterton (1875-1938) was the wife of GK. She wrote a charming piece called 'How Far is it to Bethlehem', which has become a much loved Christmas Carol. It was originally written in 1917 and printed on Gilbert and Frances’ Christmas card to family and friends that year. It was then set to traditional English music and published by Novello & Co. in 1922. It's probably her most lasting legacy:

How far is it to Bethlehem?
    Not very far.
Shall we find the stable room
    Lit by a star?

Can we see the little child,
    Is he within?
If we lift the wooden latch
    May we go in?

May we stroke the creatures there,
    Ox, ass, or sheep?
May we peep like them and see
    Jesus asleep?

If we touch his tiny hand
    Will he awake?
Will he know we've come so far
    Just for his sake?

Great kings have precious gifts,
    And we have naught,
Little smiles and little tears
    Are all we brought.

For all weary children
    Mary must weep.
Here, on his bed of straw
    Sleep, children, sleep.

God in his mother's arms,
    Babes in the byre,
Sleep, as they sleep who find
    Their heart's desire.

Here it is sung by the Choir of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. 

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