The First to Cry Nowell

Carol of the Field Mice”

by Kenneth Grahame 

  Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!

    Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet—
You by the fire and we in the street—
Bidding you joy in the morning!

    Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow—
Saw the star o’er a stable low;
Mary she might not further go—
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!

    And then they heard the angels tell
‘Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!’

One of my favorite stories growing up was The Wind in the Willows.  Somewhere in the middle of Kenneth Grahame’s beloved tale comes this simple Christmas carol, sung by a chorus of field mice outside the door to Mole End.
Most unfortunately, Grahame’s own life was one marked by heartbreak: his only son Alistair (nicknamed “Mouse”, and the inspiration/original audience for The Wind in The Willows) took his own life at age 19.
Mouse had been blind in one eye and was the object of bullying throughout his school-days.  I am not sure whether or not Grahame was a man of faith–in fact, some mystical portions of The Wind in the Willows suggest that Grahame was looking for answers well beyond the bounds of Scripture.
Yet, this joyful song, given voice by mice, of all creatures, suggests a deeper hope than perhaps even Grahame knew.  Christ’s birth was heralded to shepherds and their flocks, and likely witnessed by whatever beasts happened to be in the stable at that time.  His redemption is not for the lofty alone, but the lowly.  All of creation groans in sin, and that is precisely the scope of Christ’s love: all of creation.
Kenneth Grahame died more than 80 years ago.  Perhaps he recognized this promise of joy at the end.  Perhaps not.  Regardless, his words live on, another reminder of the fact that Christ’s birth is good news for all of creation.
Joy shall be ours in the morning!
~Nate Gibson


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