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At this time three years ago we had a theme of words from Christmas carols. This week, for the holiday, we'll present another half-dozen or so carol-words.

cloven – split; divided
    It came upon a midnight clear, / that glorious song of old,
    From angels bending near the earth / to touch their harps of gold:
    'Peace on the earth, good will to men, / from heaven's all-gracious King!'
    The world in solemn stillness lay / to hear the angels sing.

    Still through the cloven skies they come / with peaceful wings unfurled;
    And still their heavenly music floats / o'er all the weary world …
Perhaps someone more theologically knowledgeable than I can explain the image of 'cloven' or 'split' skies.
 
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Perhaps someone more theologically knowledgeable than I can explain the image of 'cloven' or 'split' skies.


The main "body" of the carol talks a lot about the angels appearing to a warring world, so maybe the cloven skies are a metaphor for the divided world as a whole.

I came across some interesting sites while googling to find a more certain explanation. This gives a couple of alternative verses and a lot of very interesting history about the hymn and its era. Warning: scroll down to the bottom - I thought I'd reached the end and discovered there was more further down.

This is rather fanciful, but quite informative.

PDF document which is meant as a learning aid and poses some very interesting questions about the hymn.
 
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gladsome – causing or showing gladness or joy: a gladsome occasion; a gladsome smile

I leave it to you to decide whether our second usage-example is oxymoronic.
    Sing we all Noel, hear the music all around.
    Sing we all Noel, let the joy resound.
    Sing we all Noel, the gladsome tidings bring
    Lift our God on high as His praises now we sing.

    Summing up William F. Buckley's achievements over the past half-century, the deputy director of public liaison at the White House, Timothy Goeglein, spoke of "a hopeful, cheerful, gladsome conservatism."
    – Gary Shapiro, Buckley's Birthday Bash, The New York Sun, Nov. 18, 2005
 
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There's a hymn Let us with a gladsome mind which has been around for nearly four hundred years and which is still sung in Church of England churches in Britain. Until I read the information on that site a few minutes ago, I didn't realise that Milton was only 15 when he wrote it.
 
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A long one today. We have some nice quotes, which we'll put before the carols.

swathenoun (also spelled 'swath'): a strip of material for so wrapping; also, any broad strip or area. verb: to wrap with cloth.
Bonus words: snath – the long bent handle on a scythe; also called snathe or snead. also, to snathe – to lop or prune
    The snath has a handhold on it that enables an easy, comfortable, swinging motion, each arc swinging into the grain in front of you and cutting a swath about 2 feet across.
    – Carla Emery, The Encyclopedia of Country Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book
swaddle – to wrap, envelop and bind, as a baby in a blanket; the sense is both comforting and binding. also figurative, as below (noun: a strip of material so used)
  • The team became “we” and fans rushed to swaddle themselves in team colors.
  • His [George Bush's] father had helped to swaddle him with a foreign-policy "dream team"...
  • Winter darkness swaddles the long evenings
  • the comforting bands of ignorance that swaddle us.
  • the ferns and low-hanging branches that swaddle the driveway
  • swaddle themselves in waterproof raincoats.
    – Jere Longman, If Football's a Religion, Why Don't We Have a Prayer?; Maureen Dowd, Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk; Joyce Rupp, Macrina Wiederkehr, The Circle Of Life; Dan Burton, David Grandy, Magic, Mystery, and Science: The Occult in Western Civilization; W P Kinsella, Shoeless Joe; Elizabeth Abbott, A History of Celibacy
Carols:
    O come, little children, O come one and all,
    To Bethlehem haste, to the manger so small,
    God's son for a gift has been sent you this night
    To be your redeemer, your joy and delight.
    He's born in a stable for you and for me,
    Draw near by the bright gleaming starlight to see,
    In swaddling clothes lying so meek and so mild,
    And purer than angels the heavenly Child.

    While Shepherds watch their flocks by night / All seated on the ground
    The angel of the Lord came down /And glory shone around
    "Fear not," said he for mighty dread / had seized their troubled mind
    "Glad tidings of great joy I bring / To you and all man-kind"
    "To you in David's town this day / Is born of David's line
    The Savior who is Christ the Lord / And this shall me the sign
    The heav'n'ly babe you there shall find / To human view displayed
    All meanly wrapped in swathing bands / And in a manger laid".
 
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Today's word has two confusingly near-opposite meanings. Let's start with the more common one.

pine (verb) – to languish with intense desire; to be consumed with longing

    the new-made bridegroom … / For whom …Juliet pined.
    – Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
But how then to explain the Christmas carol that tells of "the world in sin and error pining"? Surely the world did not 'long for' sin and error! The explanation is a second meaning of 'to pine'.
    O Holy Night
    The stars are brightly shining
    It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
    Long lay the world in sin and error pining
    'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
pine (verb) – to languish and waste away from grief or other intense suffering
 
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to languish with intense desire; to be consumed with longing ... to languish and waste away from grief or other intense suffering
I can't really see that these two definitions could be described as 'near-opposite'. Confused


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Juliet pined at the absence of Romeo, and wished he were present.
The world pined at the presence of sin, and wished it were absent.

It's not perfect opposition, of course, but surely the carol becomes weird if you take 'pining' to mean, in the Juliet sense, 'desiring' the thing mentioned.
 
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Juliet pined at the absence of Romeo, and wished he were present.
The world pined at the presence of sin, and wished it were absent.


But the wording of the carol says the sinful world is pining for the appearance of the savior.
 
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Precisely!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Today's word is from a biblical story in which God, to frustrate a presumptuous plan by men, created mutually-incomprehensible languages so that the men could not work together. A rather dark commentary on the origin of languages.

babel; Babel – a noisy confusion of sounds or voices; a scene of such confusion
[AHD and MW have identical definitions. Copying?]

No known connection with 'babble', by the way. For our last two quotes, credit MW's Dictionary of Allusions.
    It Came Upon A Midnight Clear; second verse:
    Still through the cloven skies they come / With peaceful wings unfurled;
    And still their heavenly music floats / O'er all the weary world;
    Above its sad and lowly plains / They bend on hovering wing,
    And ever o'er its Babel sounds / The blessed angels sing.

    the airline industry['s] … fare structure that seems to have been structured during the lunch hour at the Tower of Babel.
    – Bill Conlin, Philadelphia Daily News, Aug. 12, 1997

    On Saturday nights, as many as 300 young women line the margins of E55, a Czech highway near the German border. Their costumes vary: light frocks, skimpy red dresses, glow-in-the-dark Spandex pants. They speak a babel of languages: Czech, Romanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, German. But they have only one thing to sell: sex.
    – Margot Hornblower, The Skin Trade, Time, June 21, 1993
 
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roundelay – a song or poem in which a line or phrase is repeated as the refrain; or, a simply simple song with a refrain
[From Old Fr., tracing to rondel, circle’]
    Sing we all Noel, with a joyous roundelay.
    Sing we all Noel, hear the news today.
    [Many sites have 'rondelay', but this is either a typo or an antique version.]

    Ah, leave me not to pine / Alone and desolate;
    No fate seemed fair as mine, / No happiness so great!
    And Nature, day by day, / Has sung in accents clear
    This joyous roundelay,
    "He loves thee – he is here. / Fal, la, la, la, Fal, la, la, la.
    He loves thee – he is here. / Fal, la, la, Fal, la!"
    - Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance
Bonus words:
rondelle, rondel – a circular object; esp. a circular jewel or a ring containing one
rondeau (also rondel) – a poem form of three verses, using lines from the 1st as a refrain
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:
roundelay – a song or poem in which a line or phrase is repeated as the refrain; or, a simply simple song with a refrain
[From Old Fr., tracing to rondel, circle’][LIST]Sing we all Noel, with a joyous roundelay.
Sing we all Noel, hear the news today.
[Many sites have 'rondelay', but this is either a typo or an antique version.]

Ah, leave me not to pine / Alone and desolate;
No fate seemed fair as mine, / No happiness so great!
And Nature, day by day, / Has sung in accents clear
This joyous roundelay,
"He loves thee – he is here. / Fal, la, la, la, Fal, la, la, la.
He loves thee – he is here. / Fal, la, la, Fal, la!"
- Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance


Ah, G&S - Been there, sung that Smile.

Another occurrence of Roundelay is The Owl by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. See number 36 here. It's one of my favourite poems.
 
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