Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Friendly Beasts by Robert Davis

The Friendly Beasts

Jesus, our Brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus, our Brother, strong and good.

“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried His mother uphill and down,
I carried His mother to Bethlehem town;
I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

“I,” said the cow, all white and red,
“I gave Him my manger for His bed,
I gave Him hay to pillow His head;
I,” said the cow, all white and red.

“I,” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm,
He wore my coat on Christmas morn;
I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

“I,” said the dove, from the rafters high,
“I cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry,
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I;
I,” said the dove, from the rafters high.

Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
In the stable dark were glad to tell
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
The gifts they gave Emmanuel.
--Traditional translated by Robert Davis

Though I enjoy Christmas Carols, and especially old traditional ones, I wasn't really aware of this carol until I got a book based on it at a library booksale (the picture above is from that book). I was reading the book to Elizabeth this Christmas, and thought I'd share it with the rest of you. If you don't know the tune, I've embedded a youtube video below.

There's an old legend that says that animals can speak at Midnight on Christmas Eve -- which is what they mean by the "good spell" in the last verse. I think what I like best about this song is the way the first and fourth lines of each verse are the same, and the second and third are just slight variations. It makes the carol very easy to memorize and/or sing along with if you don't know the words yet. My only real problem with it is that unless they sheared the sheep that night, it probably wasn't his personal wool that kept the baby warm.

I just wanted to share with the world how proud I am of my daughter this week. Not only is she contnuing to take a few tentative steps, proving that the first step last week wasn't a fluke, but she is figuring out how toys work right and left.

First, here's a quick video of a few steps.

Kathey Ahlstrom sent Elizabeth a Fisher Price Nativity set for Christmas, and I decided to open it early and let her play with it.

Elizabeth thinks it's the coolest thing in the world right now, and it's often enough to distract her from the very tempting Christmas tree.

The sweater she's wearing is one that Marcelle made for her. Isn't it cute? And it's big enough that she can still wear it now that it's finally getting cool here.

The two blue wisemen are her favorite characters. It was while playing with one of them that she made her first big breakthrough this week.

One of the activities she hadn't quite mastered on her big house toy was the waterspout. You can see it in the walking video -- it's the long purple tube on the side. The idea is to take a ball and put it in the hole at the top, then let it drop to the bottom where it flips a switch, counts how many you've put down, and sings a song. Elizabeth has been playing with the balls, but hasn't been interested in putting them down the waterspout. Well one night, she was playing with the wisemen, and wandered over to the house where she shoved him down head first, he fell down the tube, flipped the switch, and was very pleased when he made it play the song. She picked him up and repeated the process a few more times, looking over at me each time to make sure I saw what she did and was appropriately impressed. Since then she has figured out that the balls get stuck less often, so she's been using them. Once, she casually shoved a few balls in over her shoulder while looking at the TV instead of the waterspout.

As you can see from the Nativity videos, one of her favorite things to do with toys is smash them together to see how they interact. Sometimes they make a nice noise, and other times they kind of interlock, and often, they just sort of slide past each other making her drop them before picking them up and trying again in a slightly different configuration. She will keep this up for quite a long time, working very hard at whatever it is she thinks she's doing. This week, her hard work paid off with the stacking cups.

Until now, she has only been able to take the cups apart, and knock down the towers I make, but this week she worked out a method of putting one cup inside another! She still experiments with putting big cups inside small ones, and seeing if they'll work upside down or sideways as well as right-side up, but more and more often, she can take any two cups and get one inside the other. It was really cool to watch the concept finally click together in her head on Wednesday or Thursday evening. I even woke Peter up to make sure he got to see (he was sick, and resting).

Since then, I've been showing her how the sorting shapes work. She's more interested in fitting them together in her hands than putting them into the box, but she does understand what I'm asking her to do, and occasionally she'll give it a try to humor me, and sometimes, she even gets the shapes to go into the right holes. She really is a clever clever child.

She may have picked up a new baby sign -- Light -- since I put up the Christmas decorations, but it may jus tbe what her hands do when she sees something pretty that she wants. I don't know. Maybe we can reinforce the Light connection, and go from there.

Well, Elizabeth seems to NEED me right now, so I'll sign off.


  1. Elizabeth has an awesome attention span! I especially love how she shakes the smaller cups out, making noises like she does with the balls.

  2. It's so neat to see her doing all these things. The still pictures are great, but thanks especially for posting the videos.

    I'm glad she likes the nativity set so well. :-)

    Love, Kathey