Born: 1808, Wil­ford, Not­ting­ham­shire, Eng­land.

Christened: De­cem­ber 18, 1808, St. Ma­ry’s Church, Not­ting­ham (about a mile north of Wil­ford)

Died: No­vem­ber 18, 1881, Leam­ing­ton, War­wick­shire, Eng­land.


Leeson joined the Ca­tho­lic church late in life, and was ap­par­ent­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with a con­gre­ga­tion in Bi­shops­gate, Lon­don.



Christmas Eve

It is the night of all the year
When on a Mother’s breast
The love least earthly in its mood
And lowliest seems to rest:
O’er thee I bend, my baby fair,
And bless thy calm repose,
While the wondrous tale of Bethlehem
Like a vision round me glows.

Fain would I watch with her who knew
The hour of trial nigh
That to her sheltering arms should bring
The Child of prophecy.
Seems she not lovely in her prayer?
Strong in her Maker’s word?
Thus waits the Church mid hope and awe
The promise of her Lord.

No earthly glory lights her brow,
Soon must the dew of pain
Be gathered o’er it, nor for her
Does Heav’n send forth its train.
At midnight glow a thousand lamps
O’er the city’s crowded ways,
While in her heart’s deep shrine she chants
Hosannahs of meek praise.

Another watch—and all is still,
But more serenely bright
As on a world of peace and love,
Shines the clear, eastern night.
Fairer it seemed not when the moon
Ruled in her new-born power—
Have not the stars a Sister found
They knew not in that hour?

Mary, thou didst not need to hear
The burst of seraph-song;
Upon thy breast thy Saviour lay
When it swelled the sky along.
A deeper worship hast thou giv’n
To His first, waking smile
Than that wherewith the Magi soon
Their gifts shall round Him pile.

Joy is before thee, Mother mild!
Of which we fondly dream;
Yet is thy dovelike spirit lit
With that prophetic gleam,
Which in the Temple’s solemn round
Upon thy pathway broke,
When Simeon blessed the Eternal Child
And then of anguish spoke.

It haunts thee in the days when home
From Egypt thou hast brought
Thy Treasure, and thy household joys
With tranquil peace are fraught.
While angel wings ’neath thy low roof
Celestial fragrance shed,
Dost thou not see the thunder cloud
Hang o’er His sunny head?

Joy is before thee, blessèd Maid!
Long years with Him to dwell,
To watch His brow, to be His care,
To know the thoughts that swell
In that lone breast whose life is love,
To hear the voice whose sway
The tombèd dead, the wildered soul,
And the tempest shall obey.

Well did thy saintly spirit learn
The chastening lore He taught,
When amid Israel’s sages found,
His Father’s work He wrought.
Beside Him at the bridal feast
Thou sat’st in lowly state,
Henceforth with the disciple-train
Content to hear and wait.

The hour is come that darkness veils,
Thou hast heard the maddened cry,
Hast seen Him mark the way of scorn
With blood to Calvary,
And in the shadow, nigh the Cross,
Consenting thou dost stand,
And bear with thy woman’s heart
The agonizing brand.

Thy heart is wrapt in His, thy will
Owns not another choice.
One care still binds Him to the earth
For thee, that thrilling voice,
The loved Apostle hears again
Ere death’s last work be done,
Behold thy Mother, and to thee,
Woman, behold thy Son.

They have laid Him in the garden tomb
Beneath the sealèd stone,
His weary body lies at last
On its rocky bed alone.
The life within Him conquered death
Ere He yielded yet to die,
And the peace is o’er us still that breathed
In that departing cry.

On Sabbath day He slept and then
In the grave fresh life He drew,
And rose unseen ere yet the sun
Had dried the twilight dew.
Thus was He wont the mountain side
To seek for lonely prayer,
While the world He came to save, lay still,
Nor dreamed Who pleaded there.

They who stood nearest to the Cross
Were the earliest at the tomb—
On those true hearts Heav’n’s radiance dawned
Who bore earth’s drearest gloom.
Oh Woman, with thy pale, glad eye,
What hast thou seen and heard?
The glory of the Risen One,
The healing of His word.

Mary, we trace thee by the star
That o’er His cradle shone
E’en to that promised fire that came
Down from His triumph throne:
The Church with thee adores thy Son,
And fresh, and clear, and strong,
As when at first its music woke,
Swells thy thanksgiving song.

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
My spirit doth rejoice
In God my Saviour, for on me
Though lowly fell His choice.
Now shall all ages call me blessed,
Henceforth with one acclaim,
For God hath done great things for me,
And holy is His name.

Jane Eliza Leeson
Hymns and Scenes of Childhood, 1842




Help Needed

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