The Ditchling Carol
So shall each note of mirth appear More sweet to Heaven than praise or prayer
We're well into Advent now, and as is my wont I've been listening to lots of carols. One that stuck out for me this year is the Ditchling Carol, named for the village just north of us here in Brighton. It stuck out because the majority of the song is an earnest enjoinment to help the poor.
And all remember, gentles gay
For you who bask in fortune's ray
The year is all our holiday
The poor have only Christmas
It's remarkably powerful because it couches every request to help by pointing out how great the excess goods the hearers possess and how meagre the amount needed to help someone is.
When you the costly banquet deal
To guests who never famine feel
Oh spare one morsel from your meal
To feed the poor at Christmas
I know that's standard charity tactics, but I don't think their appeals tend to word it quite so artfully.
From blazing logs of fuel a while
Your homes are within summer's smile
Oh spare one log from off the pile
To warm the poor at Christmas
and the closing verse made me cry the first time I heard it again this year.
So shall each note of mirth appear
More sweet to Heaven than praise or prayer
That the happiness of those with least is the highest good is one of the best moral compasses you can reach for, especially in times like these.