Interesting old books at Books Online, a wonderful free service. In Routledge’s Christmas Annual from 1872 there’s a Christmas story called “Aidan of the Cows.” What’s that about?
It’s about a young woman named Aidan who has herds of the choice cows producing the best milk and cheese in the village of St.Koatsven in a Distant Land near the shore of a distant sea.
Unfortunately, Aidan falls on bad times because the young man she loves spends her fortune til all her cows are sold to moneylenders.
Christmas morning Aidan wanders sadly down a meadow near the sea and hears a robin singing:
“ She listened with amazement, with fear and trembling, with a fearful joy, because the bird sang in human speech.
“I am Robin Redbreast,” he sang, ” the Bird of Good Hope, I am much endowed among birds. For in ancient times when He was toiling up the heavy hill bearing the bitter Cross, I, moved by Heaven, alighted on His head, and plucked from out His bleeding brow ONE thorn from the cruel crown that bound his temples. One drop of His blood bedewed my throat as I stooped to the blessed task, and the blood-drop dyed my breast in a hue of glorious beauty for ever.”
Aidan listened with all the ears of her heart.
“In remembrance of what I did, a poor foolish bird! this blessing was laid upon me—that once every year, on Christmas-eve, I should be empowered to give a good gift to the first maiden, good but unhappy, who should put her foot upon the herb Marie, as you, Aidan, have done.”
The girl looked down. Her foot was lightly- pressing the pretty little yellow trefoil plantret, which is called the herb Marie. “As you have done, Aidan of the Cows,” the robin repeated with a confident chirrup.
Of course, Aidan got her cows back and even her repentant young man, whom she marries and they live happily ever after.
The author ends the tale remarking that this all took place in a Distant Land. “ In the land that is close by us nothing of the kind takes place.”
But we know that it does. And so, may the Bird of Good Hope, speak to you today.