Lo, Above the Earth

by Patrick Clifford

/
1.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day, Their old, familiar carols play; And wild and sweet, the words repeat Of peace on earth, goodwill to men! * And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along the unbroken song Of peace on earth, goodwill to men! Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime Of peace on earth, goodwill to men! Then it was as if an earthquake rent The hearthstones of a continent, And made forlorn the households born Of peace on earth, goodwill to men! And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong, and mocks the song Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!" * Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men."
2.
On the First day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. On the Second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves On the Third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens On the Fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four calling birds On the Fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five gold rings On the Sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a-laying On the Seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming On the Eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking On the Ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing On the Tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping On the Eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping On the Twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming
3.
Joy to the world: The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing. Joy to the world: The Savior reigns! Let all their songs employ, While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy. No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and with grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And the wonders of His love.
4.
What I believe in What I'm achieving Let’s leave those alone for tonight Shadow’s falling where I am But-- whether dim, or dark, or damned-- Tomorrow I'll travel in light We’re a people born with leave to take We wander, we wager, we welcome the stakes And the critical looks that that’s sure to invite I don't know how long I will be Just keep a candle lit for me In the window, in your prayers, in the night Farewell to blessings I recall Farewell to catching my every fall Farewell to falling to my knees without a fight Farewell for now If fortune's kind I'll retrieve the trove I'm sure to find For now I'm traveling light I told you, "Here's what I perceive: I do believe I'd so believe If I could see a little more in black and white But my path's ordained by dint of all these other hues and tints Beyond those gray, grave, and contrite.” So much less I could have said Before you shook your head But I'm not sure it would have helped us anyway Now when I listen as I ought There’s just stillness and the thought That there's still so much less that I could say I cannot see my feet beneath me I cannot see the road before me I cannot see the trains I hear careening, empty, through the night Still, I can keep my heart with you I can ask the same in return, too But nothing more: I'm traveling light Is that a shadow of a doubt? I can barely make it out Here beside me-- only, no, not quite Still, better a shadow than a seed Could it be, that time is all I need? That in time it'll all be all right? No, to hell with all the rest I'm seeking love made manifest Gonna see it stand up and extend to full height I'm gonna find where Grace abounds, I'm gonna take a look around See what else abounds See what I can set right I do believe my heart could burst I believe I don't know what's the worst: This hour of grief, This hope, Or this hindsight But I believe the night has numbered days I believe the light arrives and stays And I believe that faith is thought, equipped with wings for flight I believe it’s here that you must stay I believe you know I can't say the same I believe in the journey And in traveling light In August as a kid I'd sit out for the Perseids And ask them all these questions outright Of course the answers never came: They all fell silent, all the same Though wish I may and wish I might Now-- cloudless, moonless, cold-- This December night withholds all mercy As though for a higher price Familiar constellations dim; The stars seem just a whim, Just splattered paint, Just so many tumbled dice But I will not be resigned No, instead it calls to mind A long-ago and far-away night When, through a billion miles of void, To leave the luckless overjoyed Came traveling light
5.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray: O tidings of comfort and joy... In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd babe was born, And laid within a manger upon this blessèd morn, To which His Mother Mary did nothing take in scorn: O tidings of comfort and joy... From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel came, And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same, How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name: O tidings of comfort and joy... "Fear not then," said the Angel. "Let nothing you affright. This day is born a savior of a pure virgin bright, To free all those who trust in him from Satan's power and might." O tidings of comfort and joy... The shepherds at those tidings rejoicèd much in mind, And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind, And went to Bethlehem straightway, this blessèd Babe to find: O tidings of comfort and joy... And when they came to Bethlehem, where our dear savior lay, They found Him in a manger, where oxen feed on hay; His mother Mary kneeling down, unto the Lord did pray: O tidings of comfort and joy... Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place, And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace; This holy tide of Christmas all others doth efface: O tidings of comfort and joy...
6.
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen, When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even; Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel, When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel. "Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling, Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?" "Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain; Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain." "Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither: Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither." Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together; Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather. "Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger; Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer." "Mark my footsteps, my good page. Tread thou in them boldly Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly." In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted; Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed. Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

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A Christmas album work-in-progress

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released December 25, 2010

Executive Producers: Linda Jeffers, Kieran Xanthos, Martin Rutherford, Linda Zdepski, Anonymous.

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Patrick Clifford New York, New York

Patrick Clifford is an Irish-American musician, songwriter, and producer.

He performs and records Irish traditional standards; skillfully crafted original songs and compositions; and discerning covers of contemporary Irish and American songwriters such as Pete St. John, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.

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www.patrickclifford.com/clifford/about/
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