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[AT Glastonbury Abbey in Somersetshire, grew a miraculous thorn-tree, which was said to bear flowers every year on Christmas day. The legend connected with it related that Joseph of Arimathea, having incurred the enmity of the Jews for his pious care of our Lord's body (as related by the Evangelists), was banished by them from Judea-with twelve companions, he was put into a boat without cars or sails, and driven to sea. After long tossing about on the ocean, they were cast by God's providence on the coast of Britain; thence they wandered on until they arrived at a hill, close to where the Abbey of Glastonbury afterwards stood, which is called to this day "Weary-all-Hill." It was on a Christmas morning that the strangers arrived here, and Joseph planted the pilgrim's staff, which he bore, in the ground, when forthwith it budded and burst into blossoms, filling the air with odours. This was the Holy Thorn which according to the tradition, never failed to bear flowers and leaves on Christmas day.]

'Twas the morn of the blessed Christmas-day,

When a stranger came to the Abbey gate;
For the traveller who journeyed along that way,
There was ever a welcome-early or late.
Well known unto all who passed that way,
Where the Abbey of Glastonbury stood;
Well known were its towers and portals grey,
And its gentle and holy Brotherhood.

There all were welcome-the board was spread
For prince and noble with costly fare;
The poor and the hungry were clothed and fed,
And the sick were tended with gentle care.

But the traveller who came on that Christmas-day,
To the convent-gate in the morning light,
As he journeyed along on his weary way,
Had seen a strange and wonderful sight.

So passing strange to him did it seem

As he entered into the Abbey court,
That he almost thought of some empty dream
Of a fevered brain he had been the sport.

The Abbot came forth, his guest to meet―
No stranger had long for the Abbot to wait;
He was ever the first his coming to greet,

And the last to speed him away from the gate.

"Thou art welcome, my son, to our convent cheer "
(And his spirit betrayed him gently born);
"Thrice welcome is he, out of all the year,
Who comes to the Abbey on Christmas morn."

"Thanks, Holy Father! I thank thee well
For thy courtesy," the stranger replies;
"But what is the meaning, I pray thee tell,
Of the sight that this morn hath met mine eyes?

"If it be some vision, then tell me, I pray,

If thou can'st tell, what the vision may mean; For hard-by here I have seen this day

The strangest sight that ever was seen.

"The trees at this season are black and bare,
And yet as I came along this morn,
In the chill of the cold mid-winter air,
I saw in blossom a beautiful thorn.

"A thorn-tree covered with blossoms as fair
As ever were seen in the month of May;
And its rich, sweet perfume loaded the air,
And was borne to me as I went on my way."

He paused, and the Abbot gently smiled

But the smile was in courtesy, not in scorn. "My son, by no vision hast thou been beguiled, Thou hast seen with thine eyes the Holy Thorn."

"My Father, I know not what this may mean; I never heard tell of a Holy Thorn."

"Thou art strange, then, my son, in these parts, I ween, To which thou has come on this Christmas morn.

"But blessed art thou, out of all the year,

To have come on the day when Christ was born ;
Now, listen to me-an it please thee to hear,
I will tell thee the tale of the Holy Thorn."

A moment he paused-his head inclined-
To mutter a prayer; the holy man ;
And then on his breast the cross he signed,
And thus the Abbot his tale began :-

"Long ages ago, my son, thou must know,
The spot where this noble Abbey stands
Was marked by a building mean and low,
That was rudely raised by the loving hands

"Of those who first to this island brought

The gospel message-a saintly band;

Thou hast heard of St. Joseph, of him who wrought That deed of love in the Holy Land.

"By entombing the Master whom they had slain,
He earned for himself the hatred sore

Of wicked men-t'was a glorious gain,
To be driven away from that guilty shore.

"They turned him adrift in an open boat, Exposed to the fury of wind and wave, Oarless and sailless on seas remote,

To find with his comrades a watery grave.

"But a Pilot went with them over the sea,

The boat was steered by an unseen hand; For God was their Pilot, my son, t'was He Who brought them safe to this distant land.

"They were tossed on the waves for many a day, They were oft in peril and danger sore;

Till at length-t'was His will, whom the winds obeyThey were cast by a storm on this island's shore.

"Far off from hence, but they wandered on
Not knowing whither their steps they bent,
And round about them a light there shone,
Which guided their feet on the way they went.

"For long, long days they journeyed until

They stood, at length, on yon hill-top there; "Tis called to this day by folk "Weary-all-hill,' For weary in sooth all those travellers were.

""Twas on Christmas day that the stranger band
A resting-place in this region found,

And the staff that Joseph bore in his hand,
He planted there in the frozen ground.

"And then there was wrought a miracle there, Such as never was seen since in early days The rod of Aaron blossomed and bare

Before the Egyptian monarch's gaze.

"For lo on a sudden a beautiful tree

Grew up where the staff was placed in the ground; It was loaded with blossoms fair to see, And sweetly it scented the air around.

"Well might it, my son; for he who had borne
That pilgrim's staff in his pious hand,

And planted it there on that Christmas morn,
Had wrought a deed in the Holy Land-

"A deed of love, of which men shall tell

Till human speech shall have ceased to beThe hands that had handled the Life might well Give life themselves to a senseless tree!

"It burst into blossoms sweet and white-
White as the linen pure and fine;
Sweet as the spices with which on that night
He had lovingly balmed the Form Divine.

"'Tis said that when Joseph his labour of love
Had ended that evening, heard of none

Save himself, there came a voice from above
Which gently breathed in his ear, 'Well done!'

"And ever they say, by night and day

His drooping spirits to soothe and cheer, As he journeyed along on his weary way, "Well done!" that voice would speak in his ear.

"He heard it clear through the ocean's roar,

As his bark was tossed on the stormy sea'Twas the voice that had spoken once before On the troubled waters of Galilee.

And perhaps in the spirit land, my son,
And in tones that are not for ears of clay,
That voice still says to him now,' Well done!'
And will say it on till the judgment day-

However this be; on each Christmas morn Since then has happened this wonderful thing, In the midst of the wintry cold that thorn

Is clothed with the blossoms and scents of spring.

"It dons a mantle of virgin white,

Each year on the day when Christ was born; And men when they look on the wonderful sight, Still say, to this day "Tis the Holy Thorn.'

"My tale is done, yet, oh stranger stay!

Thou hast come to the Abbey on Christmas mornTake hence this lesson with thee on thy way, Of him who planted the Holy Thorn.

"To thee, as to Joseph, it is not given To handle the sacred body, indeed, Of him who lives for ever in heaven,

But yet of thy service, my son, He has need.

"His body-the Church-is with us still;
The poor-his brethren-are every where;
He works most surely the Master's will,
Who learns for his members on earth to care.

"Bear help to the helpless, the injured right, And never thy hand from the poor withhold; Seek not in worldly pleasures delight,

Nor give thy soul to the lust of gold.

"Pure as the blossom of yonder thorn,
Keep ever thy conscience pure within;
And He who on this blest day was born
Shall wash thy soul from the stain of sin.

"So perchance; at the last, thou too shalt hear,
Like Joseph of old, a voice, my son,
Which shall speak to thee in thy dying ear,

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And whisper in gentle tones, Well done!'

"And through all the years of eternity

Thou shalt learn to bless the Christmas morn, When 'twas given to thee with thine eyes to see The wonderful sight of the Holy Thorn."


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