As a Swede, I have several Christmasses been hearing and some of them singing Victor Rydberg's star of Bethlehem poem, and will quote one line, which in light of the following suggests either Chesterton knew Swedish (though I have no other indications thereof) or that true minds think alike (a saying sometimes misattributed as about "great minds").
Stjärnan från Betlehem leder ej bort, men hem.
The star from Bethlehem leads, not away (from home), but home.
So thought Chesterton:
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
But the same poem also has a Tolkien connection:
This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
You recall a dialogue between Eomer and Aragorn? I do.
“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'
A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!”
J.R.R. Tolkien > Quotes > Quotable Quote / J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
There is another connection between Rydberg and Tolkien : trying to search "leder ej bort, men hem" on wiki, I came across Swedish translations of The Hobbit.
This is obviously an excuse for a triple recommendation:
- Read Tolkien - all of him
- Read Chesterton - all of him, and right now the whole of the cited Christmas poem, on a blog by a fellow Chestertonian
- If you know Swedish, read Rydberg's Christmas poem. Even if you don't, enjoy the music.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Holy Martyr and ex-Prefect
St Flavian, husband of
St Dafrosa, parents of virgins Sts Bibiana and
Demetria, all of these also martyrs*
PS, I had nearly forgotten who composed the poem to music - but it is Alice Tegnér. Very famous in Sweden.
* Item Romae sancti Flaviani Expraefecti, viri beatae Martyris Dafrosae atque patris beatarum Virginum et Martyrum Bibianae ac Demetriae; qui, sub Juliano Apostata, pro Christo inscriptione damnatus, et ad Aquas Taurinas, in Etruria, in exsilium missus, illic in oratione spiritum Deo reddidit.