CHRISTMAS WISHES. A CAROL, by Juliana Horatia Ewing

  Oh, happy Christmas, full of blessings, come!
      Now bid our discords cease;
      Here give the weary ease;
      Let the long-parted meet again in peace;
      Bring back the far-away;
      Grant us a holiday;
      And by the hopes of Christmas-tide we pray—
  Let love restore the fallen to his Home;
Whilst up and down the snowy streets the Christmas minstrels sing;
And through the frost from countless towers the bells of Christmas ring.

  Ah, Christ! and yet a happier day shall come!
      Then bid our discords cease;
      There give the weary ease;
      Let the long-parted meet again in peace;
      Bring back the far-away;
      Grant us a holiday;
      And by the hopes of Christmas-tide we pray—
  Let love restore the fallen to his Home;
Whilst up and down the golden streets the blessed angels sing,
And evermore the heavenly chimes in heavenly cadence ring.

A Visit From St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down on a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.

A Defective Santa Claus, by James Whitcomb Riley


With Pictures by


Copyright 1904
James Whitcomb Riley




Little Boy! Halloo!—halloo!
Can’t you hear me calling you?—
Little Boy that used to be,
Come in here and play with me.

A Defective Santa Claus

Allus when our Pa he’s away
Nen Uncle Sidney comes to stay
At our house here—so Ma an’ me
An’ Etty an’ Lee-Bob won’t be
Afeard ef anything at night
Might happen—like Ma says it might.

(Ef Trip wuz big, I bet you he
‘Uz best watch-dog you ever see!)
An’ so last winter—ist before
It’s go’ be Chris’mus-Day,—w’y, shore
Enough, Pa had to haf to go
To ‘tend a lawsuit—”An’ the snow
Ist right fer Santy Claus!” Pa said,
As he clumb in old Ayersuz’ sled,
An’ said he’s sorry he can’t be
With us that night—”‘Cause,” he-says-ee,
“Old Santy might be comin’ here—
This very night of all the year

I’ got to be away!—so all
You kids must tell him—ef he call—
He’s mighty welcome, an’ yer Pa
He left his love with you an’ Ma

An’ Uncle Sid!” An’ clucked, an’ leant
Back, laughin’—an’ away they went!
An’ Uncle wave’ his hands an’ yells
“Yer old horse ort to have on bells!”
But Pa yell back an’ laugh an’ say
“I ‘spect when Santy come this way
It’s time enough fer sleighbells nen!”
An’ holler back “Good-by!” again,
An’ reach out with the driver’s whip
An’ cut behind an’ drive back Trip.

An’ so all day it snowed an’ snowed!
An’ Lee-Bob he ist watched the road,

In his high-chair; an’ Etty she
U’d play with Uncle Sid an’ me—
Like she wuz he’ppin’ fetch in wood
An’ keepin’ old fire goin’ good,

Where Ma she wuz a-cookin’ there
An’ kitchen, too, an’ ever’where!
An’ Uncle say, “‘At’s ist the way
Yer Ma’s b’en workin’, night an’ day,
Sence she hain’t big as Etty is
Er Lee-Bob in that chair o’ his!”
Nen Ma she’d laugh ‘t what Uncle said,
An’ smack an’ smoove his old bald head
An’ say “Clear out the way till I
Can keep that pot from b’ilin’ dry!”
Nen Uncle, when she’s gone back to
The kitchen, says, “We ust to do

Some cookin’ in the ashes.—Say,
S’posin’ we try some, thataway!”
An’ nen he send us to tell Ma
Send two big ‘taters in he saw

Pa’s b’en a-keepin’ ’cause they got
The premiun at the Fair. An’ what
You think?—He rake a grea’-big hole
In the hot ashes, an’ he roll
Them old big ‘taters in the place
An’ rake the coals back—an’ his face
Ist swettin’ so’s he purt’-nigh swear
‘Cause it’s so hot! An’ when they’re there
‘Bout time ‘at we fergit ‘em, he
Ist rake ‘em out again—an’ gee!—
He bu’st ‘em with his fist wite on
A’ old stove-led, while Etty’s gone

To git the salt, an’ butter, too—
Ist like he said she haf to do,
No matter what Ma say! An’ so
He salt an’ butter ‘em, an’ blow

‘Em cool enough fer us to eat—
An’ me-o-my! they’re hard to beat!
An’ Trip ‘ud ist lay there an’ pant
Like he’d laugh out loud, but he can’t.
Nen Uncle fill his pipe—an’ we
‘Ud he’p him light it—Sis an’ me,—
But mostly little Lee-Bob, ’cause
“He’s the best Lighter ever wuz!”
Like Uncle telled him wunst when Lee-
Bob cried an’ jerked the light from me,
He wuz so mad! So Uncle pat
An’ pet him. (Lee-Bob’s ust to that—

‘Cause he’s the little-est, you know,
An’ allus has b’en humored so!)
Nen Uncle gits the flat-arn out,
An’, while he’s tellin’ us all ’bout

Old Chris’mus-times when he’s a kid,
He ist cracked hickernuts, he did,
Till they’s a crockful, mighty nigh!
An’ when they’re all done by an’ by,
He raked the red coals out again
An’ telled me, “Fetch that popcorn in,
An’ old three-leggud skillut—an’
The led an’ all now, little man,—
An’ yer old Uncle here ‘ull show
You how corn’s popped, long years ago
When me an’ Santy Claus wuz boys
On Pap’s old place in Illinoise!—

An’ your Pa, too, wuz chums, all through,
With Santy!—Wisht Pa’d be here, too!”
Nen Uncle sigh at Ma, an’ she
Pat him again, an’ say to me

An’ Etty,—”You take warning fair!—
Don’t talk too much, like Uncle there,
Ner don’t fergit, like him, my dears,
That ‘little pitchers has big ears!’”
But Uncle say to her, “Clear out!—
Yer brother knows what he’s about.—
You git your Chris’mus-cookin’ done
Er these pore childern won’t have none!”
Nen Trip wake up an’ raise, an’ nen
Turn roun’ an’ nen lay down again.
An’ one time Uncle Sidney say,—
“When dogs is sleepin’ thataway,

Like Trip, an’ whimpers, it’s a sign
He’ll ketch eight rabbits—mayby nine
Afore his fleas’ll wake him—nen
He’ll bite hisse’f to sleep again

An try to dream he’s go’ ketch ten.”
An’ when Ma’s gone again back in
The kitchen, Uncle scratch his chin
An’ say, “When Santy Claus an’ Pa
An’ me wuz little boys—an’ Ma,
When she’s ’bout big as Etty there;—
W’y,—’When we’re growed—no matter where,’
Santy he cross’ his heart an’ say,—
‘I’ll come to see you, all, some day
When you’ got childerns—all but me
An’ pore old Sid!’” Nen Uncle he
Ist kindo’ shade his eyes an’ pour’

‘Bout forty-’leven bushels more
O’ popcorn out the skillut there
In Ma’s new basket on the chair.
An’ nen he telled us—an’ talk’ low,

“So Ma can’t hear,” he say:—”You know
Yer Pa know’, when he drived away,
Tomorry’s go’ be Chris’mus-Day;—
Well, nen tonight,” he whisper, “see?—
It’s go’ be Chris’mus-Eve,” says-ee,
“An’, like yer Pa hint, when he went,
Old Santy Claus (now hush!) he’s sent
Yer Pa a postul-card, an’ write
He’s shorely go’ be here tonight….
That’s why yer Pa’s so bored to be
Away tonight, when Santy he
Is go’ be here, sleighbells an’ all,

To make you kids a Chris’mus-call!”
An’ we’re so glad to know fer shore
He’s comin’, I roll on the floor—
An’ here come Trip a-waller’n’ roun’

An’ purt’-nigh knock the clo’eshorse down!—
An’ Etty grab Lee-Bob an’ prance
All roun’ the room like it’s a dance—
Till Ma she come an’ march us nen
To dinner, where we’re still again,
But tickled so we ist can’t eat
But pie, an’ ist the hot mincemeat
With raisins in.—But Uncle et,
An’ Ma. An’ there they set an’ set
Till purt’-nigh supper-time; nen we
Tell him he’s got to fix the Tree
‘Fore Santy gits here, like he said.

We go nen to the old woodshed—
All bundled up, through the deep snow—
“An’ snowin’ yet, jee-rooshy-O!”
Uncle he said, an’ he’p us wade

Back where’s the Chris’mus-Tree he’s made
Out of a little jackoak-top
He git down at the sawmill-shop—
An’ Trip ‘ud run ahead, you know,
An’ ‘tend-like he ‘uz eatin’ snow—
When we all waddle back with it;
An’ Uncle set it up—an’ git
It wite in front the fireplace—’cause
He says “‘Tain’t so ‘at Santy Claus
Comes down all chimblies,—least, tonight
He’s comin’ in this house all right—
By the front-door, as ort to be!—

We’ll all be hid where we can see!”
Nen he look up, an’ he see Ma
An’ say, “It’s ist too bad their Pa
Can’t be here, so’s to see the fun

The childern will have, ever’ one!”
Well, we!—We hardly couldn’t wait
Till it wuz dusk, an’ dark an’ late
Enough to light the lamp!—An’ Lee-
Bob light a candle on the Tree—
“Ist one—’cause I’m ‘The Lighter’!”—Nen
He clumb on Uncle’s knee again
An’ hug us bofe;—an’ Etty git
Her little chist an’ set on it
Wite clos’t, while Uncle telled some more
‘Bout Santy Claus, an’ clo’es he wore
All maked o’ furs, an’ trimmed as white

As cotton is, er snow at night!”
An’ nen, all sudden-like, he say,—
Hush! Listen there! Hain’t that a sleigh
An’ sleighbells jinglin’?” Trip go “whooh!”

Like he hear bells an’ smell ‘em, too.
Nen we all listen…. An’-sir, shore
Enough, we hear bells—more an’ more
A-jinglin’ clos’ter—clos’ter still
Down the old crook-road roun’ the hill.
An’ Uncle he jumps up, an’ all
The chairs he jerks back by the wall
An’ th’ows a’ overcoat an’ pair
O’ winder-curtains over there
An’ says, “Hide quick, er you’re too late!—
Them bells is stoppin’ at the gate!—
Git back o’ them-’air chairs an’ hide,

‘Cause I hear Santy’s voice outside!”
An’ Bang! bang! bang! we heerd the door—
Nen it flewed open, an’ the floor
Blowed full o’ snow—that’s first we saw,

Till little Lee-Bob shriek’ at Ma
There’s Santy Claus!—I know him by
His big white mufftash!“—an’ ist cry
An’ laugh an’ squeal an’ dance an’ yell
Till, when he quiet down a spell,
Old Santy bow an’ th’ow a kiss
To him—an’ one to me an’ Sis—
An’ nen go clos’t to Ma an’ stoop
An’ kiss her—An’ nen give a whoop
That fainted her!—’Cause when he bent
An’ kiss her, he ist backed an’ went
Wite ‘ginst the Chris’mus-Tree ist where

The candle’s at Lee-Bob lit there!—
An’ set his white-fur belt afire—
An’ blaze streaked roun’ his waist an’ higher
Wite up his old white beard an’ th’oat!—

Nen Uncle grabs th’ old overcoat
An’ flops it over Santy’s head,
An’ swing the door wide back an’ said,
“Come out, old man!—an’ quick about
It!—I’ve ist got to put you out!”
An’ out he sprawled him in the snow—
“Now roll!” he says—”Hi-roll-ee-O!”—
An’ Santy, sputter’n’ “Ouch! Gee-whiz!
Ist roll an’ roll fer all they is!
An’ Trip he’s out there, too,—I know,
‘Cause I could hear him yappin’ so—
An’ I heerd Santy, wunst er twic’t,

Say, as he’s rollin’, “Drat the fice’t!”
Nen Uncle come back in, an’ shake
Ma up, an’ say, “Fer mercy-sake!—
He hain’t hurt none!” An’ nen he said,—

“You youngsters h’ist up-stairs to bed!—
Here! kiss yer Ma ‘Good-night,’ an’ me,—
We’ll he’p old Santy fix the Tree—
An’ all yer whistles, horns an’ drums
I’ll he’p you toot when morning comes!”
It’s long while ‘fore we go to sleep,—
‘Cause down-stairs, all-time somepin’ keep
A-kindo’ scufflin’ roun’ the floors—
An’ openin’ doors, an’ shettin’ doors—
An’ could hear Trip a-whinin’, too,
Like he don’t know ist what to do—

An’ tongs a-clankin’ down k’thump!—
Nen some one squonkin’ the old pump—
An’ Wooh! how cold it soun’ out there!
I could ist see the pump-spout where

It’s got ice chin-whiskers all wet
An’ drippy—An’ I see it yet!
An’ nen, seem-like, I hear some mens
A-talkin’ out there by the fence,
An’ one says, “Oh, ’bout twelve o’clock!”
“Nen,” ‘nother’n says, “Here’s to you, Doc!—
God bless us ever’ one!” An’ nen
I heerd the old pump squonk again.
An’ nen I say my prayer all through
Like Uncle Sidney learn’ me to,—
“O Father mine, e’en as Thine own,
This child looks up to Thee alone:

Asleep or waking, give him still
His Elder Brother’s wish and will.”
An’ that’s the last I know…. Till Ma
She’s callin’ us—an’ so is Pa,—

He holler “Chris’mus-gif’!” an’ say,—
“I’m got back home fer Chris’mus-Day!—
An’ Uncle Sid’s here, too—an’ he
Is nibblin’ ‘roun’ yer Chris’mus-Tree!”
Nen Uncle holler, “I suppose
Yer Pa’s so proud he’s froze his nose
He wants to turn it up at us,
‘Cause Santy kick’ up such a fuss—
Tetchin’ hisse’f off same as ef
He wuz his own fireworks hisse’f!”

An’ when we’re down-stairs,—shore enough,
Pa’s nose is froze an’ salve an’ stuff

All on it—an’ one hand’s froze, too,
An’ got a old yarn red-and-blue
Mitt on it—”An’ he’s froze some more
Acrost his chist, an’ kindo’ sore

All roun’ his dy-fram,” Uncle say.—
“But Pa he’d ort a-seen the way
Santy bear up last night when that-
Air fire break out, an’ quicker’n scat
He’s all a-blazin’, an’ them-’air
Gun-cotton whiskers that he wear
Ist flashin’!—till I burn a hole
In the snow with him, and he roll
The front-yard dry as Chris’mus jokes
Old parents plays on little folks!
But, long’s a smell o’ tow er wool,
I kep’ him rollin’ beautiful!—

Till I wuz shore I shorely see
He’s squenched! W’y, hadn’t b’en fer me,
That old man might a-burnt clear down
Clean—plum’—level with the groun’!”

Nen Ma say, “There, Sid; that’ll do!—
Breakfast is ready—Chris’mus, too.—
Your voice ‘ud soun’ best, sayin’ Grace
Say it.” An’ Uncle bow’ his face
An’ say so long a Blessing nen,
Trip bark’ two times ‘fore it’s “A-men!”

Christmas Sunshine – a Collection of Short Christmas Poems and Wishes

illus019aSOME say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.


DO the angels know the blessed day,
And strike their harps anew?
Then may the echo of their lay
Float sweetly down to you,
And fill your soul with Christmas song
That your heart shall echo your whole life long.


A bright and happy Christmas to you! Lift up yourselves to the great meaning of the day, and dare to think of your humanity as something so sublimely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God, and then go out to the pleasures and duties of your life, having been truly born anew into His Divinity, as He was born into our humanity on Christmas Day.
Phillips Brooks.


ONE wish ere yet the long year ends;
Let’s close it with a parting rhyme,
A pledge, a hand, to all our friends
As fits the merry Christmas time:
On life’s wide scene you, too, have parts,
That Fate ere long shall bid you play;
Good-night: with honest, gentle hearts,
A kindly greeting go alway.


IT was the winter wild,
While the heaven-born child
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies:
Nature, in awe to him
Had doff’d her gaudy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.

Only with speeches fair
She wooes the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow:
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,
The saintly veil of maiden white to throw;
Confounded, that her Maker’s eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.

But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-ey’d Peace;
She, crowned with olives green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphere
His ready harbinger,
With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;
And, waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.

No war or battle’s sound,
Was heard the world around;
The idle spear and shield were high up hung,
The hooked chariot stood,
Unstained with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.

But peaceful was the night,
Wherein the Prince of light
His reign of Peace upon the earth began:
The winds with wonder whist
Smoothly the waters kist,
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.


GOD rest ye, merry gentlemen; let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.
The dawn rose red o’er Bethlehem, the stars shone through the gray,
When Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.

God rest ye, little children; let nothing you affright,
For Jesus Christ, your Saviour, was born this happy night:
Along the hills of Galilee the white flocks sleeping lay,
When Christ, the Child of Nazareth, was born on Christmas-day.

God rest ye, all good Christians; upon this blessed morn
The Lord of all good Christians was of a woman born:
Now all your sorrows He doth heal, your sins He takes away;
For Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.
Dinah Maria Mulock.


THERE are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!
From “A Christmas Carol.”, by Charles Dickens.


HARK, the glad sound! the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song!

He comes, the prisoners to release
In Satan’s bondage held;
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

He comes, the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasure of His grace
T’ enrich the humble poor.

Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim,
And heaven’s eternal arches ring
With thy beloved name.
Philip Doddridge.


Christ is come to be my Friend,
Leading, loving to the end;
Christ is come to be my King,
Ordering, ruling everything.
Christ is come! Enough for me,
Lonely though the pathway be.
F. R. Havergal.


YE who have scorn’d each other
Or injured friend or brother,
In this fast fading year;
Ye who, by word or deed,
Hath made a kind heart bleed,
Come gather here.
Let sinn’d against and sinning,
Forget their strife’s beginning;
Be links no longer broken,
Be sweet forgiveness spoken,
Under the holly bough.

Ye who have lov’d each other,
Sister and friend and brother,
In this fast fading year:
Mother, and sire, and child,
Young man and maiden mild,
Come gather here;
And let your hearts grow fonder,
As memory shall ponder
Each past unbroken vow.
Old loves and younger wooing,
Are sweet in the renewing,
Under the holly bough.

Ye who have nourished sadness,
Estranged from hope and gladness,
In this fast fading year.
Ye with o’er-burdened mind
Made aliens from your kind,
Come gather here.


COME all you weary wanderers
Beneath the wintry sky,
This day forget your worldly cares,
And lay your sorrows by:
Awake and sing
The church bells ring,
For this is Christmas morning!

With grateful hearts salute the morn,
And swell the streams of song,
That laden with great joy are borne,
The willing air along;
The tidings thrill
With right good will,
For this is Christmas morning!

We’ll twine the fresh green holly wreath,
And make the yule-log glow;
And gather gaily underneath
The winking mistletoe;
All blythe and bright
By the glad fire light,
For this is Christmas morning!

Come, sing the carols old and true,
That mind us of good cheer,
And like a heavenly fall of dew,
Revive the drooping year,
And fill us up
A wassail cup,
For this is Christmas morning!

IN the rush of the merry morning
When the red burns through the gray,
And the wintry world lies waiting
For the glory of the day;
Then we hear a fitful rushing
Just without upon the stair,
See two white phantoms coming,
Catch the gleam of sunny hair.

Are they Christmas fairies stealing
Rows of little socks to fill?
Are they angels floating hither
With their message of good-will?
What sweet spell are these elves weaving,
As like larks they chirp and sing?
Are these palms of peace from heaven
That these lovely spirits bring?

Rosy feet upon the threshold,
Eager faces peeping through,
With the first red ray of sunshine,
Chanting cherubs come in view;
Mistletoe and gleaming holly,
Symbols of a blessed day,
In their chubby hands they carry,
Streaming all along the way.

WELL we know them, never weary
Of their innocent surprise:
Waiting, watching, listening always
With full hearts and tender eyes,
While our little household angels,
White and golden in the sun,
Greet us with the sweet old welcome,—
“Merry Christmas, every one!”


Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we;
Little we fear
Weather without,
Sheltered about
The mahogany tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang in its bloom;
Night-birds are we;
Here we carouse,
Singing, like them,
Perched round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit;
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.
Life is but short–
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we’ll be!
Drink, every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree!

Drain we the cup,–
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid me to flee.
Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite,
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.
W. M. Thackeray.


Mist and cloud and darkness
Veil the wintry hour,
But the sun dispels them
With his rising power.

Mist and cloud and darkness
Often dim thy day
But a Christmas glory
Shines upon thy way.

May the Lord of Christmas,
Counsellor and Friend,
Light thy desert pathway
Even to the end.
F. R. Havergal.

Christmas Eve, by Robert Browning


christmas-chapelOut of the little chapel I burst
Into the fresh night-air again.
Five minutes full, I waited first
In the doorway, to escape the rain
That drove in gusts down the common’s centre
At the edge of which the chapel stands,
Before I plucked up heart to enter.
Heaven knows how many sorts of hands
Reached past me, groping for the latch
Of the inner door that hung on catch
More obstinate the more they fumbled,
Till, giving way at last with a scold
Of the crazy hinge, in squeezed or tumbled
One sheep more to the rest in fold,
And left me irresolute, standing sentry
In the sheepfold’s lath-and-plaster entry,
Six feet long by three feet wide,
Partitioned off from the vast inside–
I blocked up half of it at least.
No remedy; the rain kept driving.
They eyed me much as some wild beast,
That congregation, still arriving,
Some of them by the main road, white
A long way past me into the night,
Skirting the common, then diverging;
Not a few suddenly emerging
From the common’s self thro’ the paling-gaps
–They house in the gravel-pits perhaps,
Where the road stops short with its safeguard border
Of lamps, as tired of such disorder;–
But the most turned in yet more abruptly
From a certain squalid knot of alleys,
Where the town’s bad blood once slept corruptly,
Which now the little chapel rallies
And leads into day again,–its priestliness
Lending itself to hide their beastliness
So cleverly (thanks in part to the mason),
And putting so cheery a whitewashed face on
Those neophytes too much in lack of it,
That, where you cross the common as I did,
And meet the party thus presided,
“Mount Zion” with Love-lane at the back of it,
They front you as little disconcerted
As, bound for the hills, her fate averted,
And her wicked people made to mind him,
Lot might have marched with Gomorrah
behind him.


Well, from the road, the lanes or the common,
In came the flock: the fat weary woman,
Panting and bewildered, down-clapping
Her umbrella with a mighty report,
Grounded it by me, wry and flapping,
A wreck of whalebones; then, with snort,
Like a startled horse, at the interloper
(Who humbly knew himself improper,
But could not shrink up small enough)
–Round to the door, and in,–the gruff
Hinge’s invariable scold
Making my very blood run cold.
Prompt in the wake of her, up-pattered
On broken clogs, the many-tattered
Little old-faced peaking sister-turned-mother
Of the sickly babe she tried to smother
Somehow up, with its spotted face,
From the cold, on her breast, the one warm place;
She too must stop, wring the poor ends dry
Of a draggled shawl, and add thereby
Her tribute to the door-mat, sopping
Already from my own clothes’ dropping,
Which yet she seemed to grudge I should stand on:
Then, stooping down to take off her pattens,
She bore them defiantly, in each hand one,
Planted together before her breast
And its babe, as good as a lance in rest.
Close on her heels, the dingy satins
Of a female something, past me flitted,
With lips as much too white, as a streak
Lay far too red on each hollow cheek;
And it seemed the very door-hinge pitied
All that was left of a woman once,
Holding at least its tongue for the nonce.
Then a tall yellow man, like the Penitent Thief,
With his jaw bound up in a handkerchief,
And eyelids screwed together tight,
Led himself in by some inner light.
And, except from him, from each that entered,
I got the same interrogation–
“What, you the alien, you have ventured
“To take with us, the elect, your station?
“A carer for none of it, a Gallio!”–
Thus, plain as print, I read the glance
At a common prey, in each countenance
As of huntsman giving his hounds the tallyho.
And, when the door’s cry drowned their wonder,
The draught, it always sent in shutting,
Made the flame of the single tallow candle
In the cracked square lantern I stood under,
Shoot its blue lip at me, rebutting
As it were, the luckless cause of scandal:
I verily fancied the zealous light
(In the chapel’s secret, too!) for spite
Would shudder itself clean off the wick,
With the airs of a Saint John’s Candlestick.
There was no standing it much longer.
“Good folks,” thought I, as resolve grew stronger,
“This way you perform the Grand-Inquisitor
“When the weather sends you a chance visitor?
“You are the men, and wisdom shall die with you,
“And none of the old Seven Churches vie with you!
“But still, despite the pretty perfection
“To which you carry your trick of exclusiveness,
“And, taking God’s word under wise protection,
“Correct its tendency to diffusiveness,
“And bid one reach it over hot ploughshares,–
“Still, as I say, though you’ve found salvation,
“If I should choose to cry, as now, ‘Shares!’–
“See if the best of you bars me my ration!
“I prefer, if you please, for my expounder
“Of the laws of the feast, the feast’s own Founder;
“Mine’s the same right with your poorest and sickliest
“Supposing I don the marriage vestiment:
“So shut your mouth and open your Testament,
“And carve me my portion at your quickliest!”
Accordingly, as a shoemaker’s lad
With wizened face in want of soap,
And wet apron wound round his waist like a rope,
(After stopping outside, for his cough was bad,
To get the fit over, poor gentle creature,
And so avoid disturbing the preacher)
–Passed in, I sent my elbow spikewise
At the shutting door, and entered likewise,
Received the hinge’s accustomed greeting,
And crossed the threshold’s magic pentacle,
And found myself in full conventicle,
–To wit, in Zion Chapel Meeting,
On the Christmas-Eve of ‘Forty-nine,
Which, calling its flock to their special clover,
Found all assembled and one sheep over,
Whose lot, as the weather pleased, was mine.


I very soon had enough of it.
The hot smell and the human noises,
And my neighbour’s coat, the greasy cuff of it,
Were a pebble-stone that a child’s hand poises,
Compared with the pig-of-lead-like pressure
Of the preaching man’s immense stupidity,
As he poured his doctrine forth, full measure,
To meet his audience’s avidity.
You needed not the wit of the Sibyl
To guess the cause of it all, in a twinkling:
No sooner our friend had got an inkling
Of treasure hid in the Holy Bible,
(Whene’er ’twas the thought first struck him,
How death, at unawares, might duck him
Deeper than the grave, and quench
The gin-shop’s light in hell’s grim drench)
Than he handled it so, in fine irreverence,
As to hug the book of books to pieces:
And, a patchwork of chapters and texts in severance,
Not improved by the private dog’s-ears and creases,
Having clothed his own soul with, he’d fain see equipt yours,–
So tossed you again your Holy Scriptures.
And you picked them up, in a sense, no doubt:
Nay, had but a single face of my neighbours
Appeared to suspect that the preacher’s labours
Were help which the world could be saved without,
‘Tis odds but I might have borne in quiet
A qualm or two at my spiritual diet,
Or (who can tell?) perchance even mustered
Somewhat to urge in behalf of the sermon:
But the flock sat on, divinely flustered,
Sniffing, methought, its dew of Hermon
With such content in every snuffle,
As the devil inside us loves to ruffle.
My old fat woman purred with pleasure,
And thumb round thumb went twirling faster,
While she, to his periods keeping measure,
Maternally devoured the pastor.
The man with the handkerchief untied it,
Showed us a horrible wen inside it,
Gave his eyelids yet another screwing,
And rocked himself as the woman was doing.
The shoemaker’s lad, discreetly choking,
Kept down his cough. ‘Twas too provoking!
My gorge rose at the nonsense and stuff of it;
So, saying like Eve when she plucked the apple,
“I wanted a taste, and now there’s enough of it,”
I flung out of the little chapel.


There was a lull in the rain, a lull
In the wind too; the moon was risen,
And would have shone out pure and full,
But for the ramparted cloud-prison,
Block on block built up in the West,
For what purpose the wind knows best,
Who changes his mind continually.
And the empty other half of the sky
Seemed in its silence as if it knew
What, any moment, might look through
A chance gap in that fortress massy:–
Through its fissures you got hints
Of the flying moon, by the shifting tints,
Now, a dull lion-colour, now, brassy
Burning to yellow, and whitest yellow,
Like furnace-smoke just ere flames bellow,
All a-simmer with intense strain
To let her through,–then blank again,
At the hope of her appearance failing.
Just by the chapel, a break in the railing
Shows a narrow path directly across;
‘Tis ever dry walking there, on the moss–
Besides, you go gently all the way uphill.
I stooped under and soon felt better;
My head grew lighter, my limbs more supple,
As I walked on, glad to have slipt the fetter.
My mind was full of the scene I had left,
That placid flock, that pastor vociferant,
–How this outside was pure and different!
The sermon, now–what a mingled weft
Of good and ill! Were either less,
Its fellow had coloured the whole distinctly;
But alas for the excellent earnestness,
And the truths, quite true if stated succinctly,
But as surely false, in their quaint presentment,
However to pastor and flock’s contentment!
Say rather, such truths looked false to your eyes,
With his provings and parallels twisted and twined,
Till how could you know them, grown double their size
In the natural fog of the good man’s mind,
Like yonder spots of our roadside lamps,
Haloed about with the common’s damps?
Truth remains true, the fault’s in the prover;
The zeal was good, and the aspiration;
And yet, and yet, yet, fifty times over,
Pharaoh received no demonstration,
By his Baker’s dream of Basket Three,
Of the doctrine of the Trinity,–
Although, as our preacher thus embellished it,
Apparently his hearers relished it
With so unfeigned a gust–who knows if
They did not prefer our friend to Joseph?
But so it is everywhere, one way with all of them!
These people have really felt, no doubt,
A something, the motion they style the Call of them;
And this is their method of bringing about,
By a mechanism of words and tones,
(So many texts in so many groans)
A sort of reviving and reproducing,
More or less perfectly, (who can tell?)
The mood itself, which strengthens by using;
And how that happens, I understand well.
A tune was born in my head last week,
Out of the thump-thump and shriek-shriek
Of the train, as I came by it, up from Manchester;
And when, next week, I take it back again,
My head will sing to the engine’s clack again,
While it only makes my neighbour’s haunches stir,
–Finding no dormant musical sprout
In him, as in me, to be jolted out.
‘Tis the taught already that profits by teaching;
He gets no more from the railway’s preaching
Than, from this preacher who does the rail’s office, I:
Whom therefore the flock cast a jealous eye on.
Still, why paint over their door “Mount Zion,”
To which all flesh shall come, saith the prophecy?


But wherefore be harsh on a single case?
After how many modes, this Christmas Eve,
Does the self-same weary thing take place?
The same endeavour to make you believe,
And with much the same effect, no more:
Each method abundantly convincing,
As I say, to those convinced before,
But scarce to be swallowed without wincing
By the not-as-yet-convinced. For me,
I have my own church equally:
And in this church my faith sprang first!
(I said, as I reached the rising ground,
And the wind began again, with a burst
Of rain in my face, and a glad rebound
From the heart beneath, as if, God speeding me,
I entered his church-door, nature leading me)
–In youth I look to these very skies,
And probing their immensities,
I found God there, his visible power;
Yet felt in my heart, amid all its sense
Of the power, an equal evidence
That his love, there too, was the nobler dower.
For the loving worm within its clod,
Were diviner than a loveless god
Amid his worlds, I will dare to say.
You know what I mean: God’s all, man’s nought:
But also, God, whose pleasure brought
Man into being, stands away
As it were a handbreadth off, to give
Room for the newly-made to live,
And look at him from a place apart,
And use his gifts of brain and heart,
Given, indeed, but to keep for ever.
Who speaks of man, then, must not sever
Man’s very elements from man,
Saying, “But all is God’s”–whose plan
Was to create man and then leave him
Able, his own word saith, to grieve him
But able to glorify him too,
As a mere machine could never do,
That prayed or praised, all unaware
Of its fitness for aught but praise and prayer,
Made perfect as a thing of course.
Man, therefore, stands on his own stock
Of love and power as a pin-point rock:
And, looking to God who ordained divorce
Of the rock from his boundless continent,
Sees, in his power made evident,
Only excess by a million-fold
O’er the power God gave man in the mould.
For, note: man’s hand, first formed to carry
A few pounds’ weight, when taught to marry
Its strength with an engine’s, lifts a mountain,
–Advancing in power by one degree;
And why count steps through eternity?
But love is the ever-springing fountain:
Man may enlarge or narrow his bed
For the water’s play, but the water-head–
How can he multiply or reduce it?
As easy create it, as cause it to cease;
He may profit by it, or abuse it,
But ’tis not a thing to bear increase
As power does: be love less or more
In the heart of man, he keeps it shut
Or opes it wide, as he pleases, but
Love’s sum remains what it was before.
So, gazing up, in my youth, at love
As seen through power, ever above
All modes which make it manifest,
My soul brought all to a single test–
That he, the Eternal First and Last,
Who, in his power, had so surpassed
All man conceives of what is might,–
Whose wisdom, too, showed infinite,
–Would prove as infinitely good;
Would never, (my soul understood,)
With power to work all love desires,
Bestow e’en less than man requires;
That he who endlessly was teaching,
Above my spirit’s utmost reaching,
What love can do in the leaf or stone,
(So that to master this alone,
This done in the stone or leaf for me,
I must go on learning endlessly)
Would never need that I, in turn,
Should point him out defect unheeded,
And show that God had yet to learn
What the meanest human creature needed,
–Not life, to wit, for a few short years,
Tracking his way through doubts and fears,
While the stupid earth on which I stay
Suffers no change, but passive adds
Its myriad years to myriads,
Though I, he gave it to, decay,
Seeing death come and choose about me,
And my dearest ones depart without me.
No: love which, on earth, amid all the shows of it,
Has ever been seen the sole good of life in it,
The love, ever growing there, spite of the strife in it.
Shall arise, made perfect, from death’s repose of it,
And I shall behold thee, face to face,
O God, and in thy light retrace
How in all I loved here, still wast thou!
Whom pressing to, then, as I fain would now,
I shall find as able to satiate
The love, thy gift, as my spirit’s wonder
Thou art able to quicken and sublimate,
With this sky of thine, that I now walk under,
And glory in thee for, as I gaze
Thus, thus! Oh, let men keep their ways
Of seeking thee in a narrow shrine–
Be this my way! And this is mine!


For lo, what think you? suddenly
The rain and the wind ceased, and the sky
Received at once the full fruition
Of the moon’s consummate apparition.
The black cloud-barricade was riven,
Ruined beneath her feet, and driven
Deep in the West; while, bare and breathless,
North and South and East lay ready
For a glorious thing that, dauntless, deathless,
Sprang across them and stood steady.
‘Twas a moon-rainbow, vast and perfect,
From heaven to heaven extending, perfect
As the mother-moon’s self, full in face.
It rose, distinctly at the base
With its seven proper colours chorded,
Which still, in the rising, were compressed,
Until at last they coalesced,
And supreme the spectral creature lorded
In a triumph of whitest white,–
Above which intervened the night.
But above night too, like only the next,
The second of a wondrous sequence,
Reaching in rare and rarer frequence,
Till the heaven of heavens were circumflexed,
Another rainbow rose, a mightier,
Fainter, flushier and flightier,–
Rapture dying along its verge.
Oh, whose foot shall I see emerge,
Whose, from the straining topmost dark,
On to the keystone of that arc?


This sight was shown me, there and then,–
Me, out of a world of men,
Singled forth, as the chance might hap
To another if, in a thunderclap
Where I heard noise and you saw flame,
Some one man knew God called his name.
For me, I think I said, “Appear!
“Good were it to be ever here.
“If thou wilt, let me build to thee
“Service-tabernacles three,
“Where, forever in thy presence,
“In ecstatic acquiescence,
“Far alike from thriftless learning
“And ignorance’s undiscerning,
“I may worship and remain!”
Thus at the show above me, gazing
With upturned eyes, I felt my brain
Glutted with the glory, blazing
Throughout its whole mass, over and under
Until at length it burst asunder
And out of it bodily there streamed,
The too-much glory, as it seemed,
Passing from out me to the ground,
Then palely serpentining round
Into the dark with mazy error.


All at once I looked up with terror.
He was there.
He himself with his human air.
On the narrow pathway, just before.
I saw the back of him, no more–
He had left the chapel, then, as I.
I forgot all about the sky.
No face: only the sight
Of a sweepy garment, vast and white,
With a hem that I could recognize.
I felt terror, no surprise;
My mind filled with the cataract,
At one bound of the mighty fact.
“I remember, he did say
“Doubtless that, to this world’s end,
“Where two or three should meet and pray,
“He would be in their midst, their friend;
“Certainly he was there with them!”
And my pulses leaped for joy
Of the golden thought without alloy,
Then I saw his very vesture’s hem.
Then rushed the blood back, cold and clear,
With a fresh enhancing shiver of fear;
And I hastened, cried out while I pressed
To the salvation of the vest,
“But not so, Lord! It cannot be
“That thou, indeed, art leaving me–
“Me, that have despised thy friends!
“Did my heart make no amends?
“Thou art the love of God–above
“His power, didst hear me place his love,
“And that was leaving the world for thee.
“Therefore thou must not turn from me
“As I had chosen the other part!
“Folly and pride o’ercame my heart.
“Our best is bad, nor bears thy test;
“Still, it should be our very best.
“I thought it best that thou, the spirit,
“Be worshipped in spirit and in truth,
“And in beauty, as even we require it–
“Not in the forms burlesque, uncouth,
“I left but now, as scarcely fitted
“For thee: I knew not what I pitied.
“But, all I felt there, right or wrong,
“What is it to thee, who curest sinning?
“Am I not weak as thou art strong?
“I have looked to thee from the beginning,
“Straight up to thee through all the world
“Which, like an idle scroll, lay furled
“To nothingness on either side:
“And since the time thou wast descried,
“Spite of the weak heart, so have I
“Lived ever, and so fain would die,
“Living and dying, thee before!
“But if thou leavest me—-”


Less or more,
I suppose that I spoke thus.
When,–have mercy, Lord, on us!
The whole face turned upon me full.
And I spread myself beneath it,
As when the bleacher spreads, to seethe it
In the cleansing sun, his wool,–
Steeps in the flood of noontide whiteness
Some denied, discoloured web–
So lay I, saturate with brightness.
And when the flood appeared to ebb,
Lo, I was walking, light and swift,
With my senses settling fast and steadying,
But my body caught up in the whirl and drift
Of the vesture’s amplitude, still eddying
On, just before me, still to be followed,
As it carried me after with its motion:
What shall I say?–as a path were hollowed
And a man went weltering through the ocean,
Sucked along in the flying wake
Of the luminous water-snake.
Darkness and cold were cloven, as through
I passed, upborne yet walking too.
And I turned to myself at intervals,–
“So he said, so it befalls.
“God who registers the cup
“Of mere cold water, for his sake
“To a disciple rendered up,
“Disdains not his own thirst to slake
“At the poorest love was ever offered:
“And because my heart I proffered,
“With true love trembling at the brim,
“He suffers me to follow him
“For ever, my own way,–dispensed
“From seeking to be influenced
“By all the less immediate ways
“That earth, in worships manifold,
“Adopts to reach, by prayer and praise,
“The garment’s hem, which, lo, I hold!”


And so we crossed the world and stopped.
For where am I, in city or plain,
Since I am ‘ware of the world again?
And what is this that rises propped
With pillars of prodigious girth?
Is it really on the earth,
This miraculous Dome of God?
Has the angel’s measuring-rod
Which numbered cubits, gem from gem,
‘Twixt the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Meted it out,–and what he meted,
Have the sons of men completed?
–Binding, ever as he bade,
Columns in the colonnade
With arms wide open to embrace
The entry of the human race
To the breast of… what is it, yon building,
Ablaze in front, all paint and gilding,
With marble for brick, and stones of price
For garniture of the edifice?
Now I see; it is no dream;
It stands there and it does not seem;
For ever, in pictures, thus it looks,
And thus I have read of it in books
Often in England, leagues away,
And wondered how these fountains play,
Growing up eternally
Each to a musical water-tree,
Whose blossoms drop, a glittering boon,
Before my eyes, in the light of the moon,
To the granite layers underneath.
Liar and dreamer in your teeth!
I, the sinner that speak to you,
Was in Rome this night, and stood, and knew
Both this and more. For see, for see,
The dark is rent, mine eye is free
To pierce the crust of the outer wall,
And I view inside, and all there, all,
As the swarming hollow of a hive,
The whole Basilica alive!
Men in the chancel, body and nave,
Men on the pillars’ architrave,
Men on the statues, men on the tombs
With popes and kings in their porphyry wombs,
All famishing in expectation
Of the main-altar’s consummation.
For see, for see, the rapturous moment
Approaches, and earth’s best endowment
Blends with heaven’s; the taper-fires
Pant up, the winding brazen spires
Heave loftier yet the baldachin;
The incense-gaspings, long kept in,
Suspire in clouds; the organ blatant
Holds his breath and grovels latent,
As if God’s hushing finger grazed him,
(Like Behemoth when he praised him)
At the silver bell’s shrill tinkling,
Quick cold drops of terror sprinkling
On the sudden pavement strewed
With faces of the multitude.
Earth breaks up, time drops away,
In flows heaven, with its new day
Of endless life, when He who trod,
Very man and very God,
This earth in weakness, shame and pain,
Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,–
Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall,
But the one God, All in all,
King of kings, Lord of lords,
As His servant John received the words,
“I died, and live for evermore!”


Yet I was left outside the door.
“Why sit I here on the threshold-stone
“Left till He return, alone
“Save for the garment’s extreme fold
“Abandoned still to bless my hold?”
My reason, to my doubt, replied,
As if a book were opened wide,
And at a certain page I traced
Every record undefaced,
Added by successive years,–
The harvestings of truth’s stray ears
Singly gleaned, and in one sheaf
Bound together for belief.
Yes, I said–that he will go
And sit with these in turn, I know.
Their faith’s heart beats, though her head swims
Too giddily to guide her limbs,
Disabled by their palsy-stroke
From propping mine. Though Rome’s gross yoke
Drops off, no more to be endured,
Her teaching is not so obscured
By errors and perversities,
That no truth shines athwart the lies:
And he, whose eye detects a spark
Even where, to man’s, the whole seems dark,
May well see flame where each beholder
Acknowledges the embers smoulder.
But I, a mere man, fear to quit
The clue God gave me as most fit
To guide my footsteps through life’s maze,
Because himself discerns all ways
Open to reach him: I, a man
Able to mark where faith began
To swerve aside, till from its summit
Judgment drops her damning plummet,
Pronouncing such a fatal space
Departed from the founder’s base:
He will not bid me enter too,
But rather sit, as now I do,
Awaiting his return outside.
–’Twas thus my reason straight replied
And joyously I turned, and pressed
The garment’s skirt upon my breast,
Until, afresh its light suffusing me,
My heart cried–What has been abusing me
That I should wait here lonely and coldly,
Instead of rising, entering boldly,
Baring truth’s face, and letting drift
Her veils of lies as they choose to shift?
Do these men praise him? I will raise
My voice up to their point of praise!
I see the error; but above
The scope of error, see the love.–
Oh, love of those first Christian days!
–Fanned so soon into a blaze,
From the spark preserved by the trampled sect,
That the antique sovereign Intellect
Which then sat ruling in the world,
Like a change in dreams, was hurled
From the throne he reigned upon:
You looked up and he was gone.
Gone, his glory of the pen!
–Love, with Greece and Rome in ken,
Bade her scribes abhor the trick
Of poetry and rhetoric,
And exult with hearts set free,
In blessed imbecility
Scrawled, perchance, on some torn sheet
Leaving Sallust incomplete
Gone, his pride of sculptor, painter!
–Love, while able to acquaint her
While the thousand statues yet
Fresh from chisel, pictures wet
From brush, she saw on every side,
Chose rather with an infant’s pride
To frame those portents which impart
Such unction to true Christian Art.
Gone, music too! The air was stirred
By happy wings: Terpander’s bird
(That, when the cold came, fled away)
Would tarry not the wintry day,–
As more-enduring sculpture must,
Till filthy saints rebuked the gust
With which they chanced to get a sight
Of some dear naked Aphrodite
They glanced a thought above the toes of,
By breaking zealously her nose off.
Love, surely, from that music’s lingering,
Might have filched her organ-fingering,
Nor chosen rather to set prayings
To hog-grunts, praises to horse-neighings.
Love was the startling thing, the new:
Love was the all-sufficient too;
And seeing that, you see the rest:
As a babe can find its mother’s breast
As well in darkness as in light,
Love shut our eyes, and all seemed right.
True, the world’s eyes are open now:
–Less need for me to disallow
Some few that keep Love’s zone unbuckled,
Peevish as ever to be suckled,
Lulled by the same old baby-prattle
With intermixture of the rattle,
When she would have them creep, stand steady
Upon their feet, or walk already,
Not to speak of trying to climb.
I will be wise another time,
And not desire a wall between us,
When next I see a church-roof cover
So many species of one genus,
All with foreheads bearing _lover_
Written above the earnest eyes of them;
All with breasts that beat for beauty,
Whether sublimed, to the surprise of them,
In noble daring, steadfast duty,
The heroic in passion, or in action,–
Or, lowered for sense’s satisfaction,
To the mere outside of human creatures,
Mere perfect form and faultless features.
What? with all Rome here, whence to levy
Such contributions to their appetite,
With women and men in a gorgeous bevy,
They take, as it were, a padlock, clap it tight
On their southern eyes, restrained from
On the glories of their ancient reading,
On the beauties of their modern singing,
On the wonders of the builder’s bringing,
On the majesties of Art around them,–
And, all these loves, late struggling incessant,
When faith has at last united and bound them,
They offer up to God for a present?
Why, I will, on the whole, be rather proud of it,–
And, only taking the act in reference
To the other recipients who might have allowed it,
I will rejoice that God had the preference.


So I summed up my new resolves:
Too much love there can never be.
And where the intellect devolves
Its function on love exclusively,
I, a man who possesses both,
Will accept the provision, nothing loth,
–Will feast my love, then depart elsewhere,
That my intellect may find its share.
And ponder, O soul, the while thou departest,
And see them applaud the great heart of the artist,
Who, examining the capabilities
Of the block of marble he has to fashion
Into a type of thought or passion,–
Not always, using obvious facilities,
Shapes it, as any artist can,
Into a perfect symmetrical man,
Complete from head to foot of the life-size,
Such as old Adam stood in his wife’s eyes,–
But, now and then, bravely aspires to consummate
A Colossus by no means so easy to come at,
And uses the whole of his block for the bust,
Leaving the mind of the public to finish it,
Since cut it ruefully short he must:
On the face alone he expends his devotion,
He rather would mar than resolve to diminish it,
–Saying, “Applaud me for this grand notion
“Of what a face may be! As for completing it
“In breast and body and limbs, do that, you!”
All hail! I fancy how, happily meeting it,
A trunk and legs would perfect the statue,
Could man carve so as to answer volition.
And how much nobler than petty cavils,
Were a hope to find, in my spirit-travels,
Some artist of another ambition,
Who, having a block to carve, no bigger,
Has spent his power on the opposite quest,
And believed to begin at the feet was best–
For so may I see, ere I die, the whole figure!


No sooner said than out in the night!
My heart lighter and more light:
And still, as before, I was walking swift,
With my senses settling fast and steadying,
But my body caught up in the whirl and drift
Of the vesture’s amplitude, still eddying
On just before me, still to be followed,
As it carried me after with its motion,
–What shall I say?–as a path, were hollowed,
And a man went weltering through the ocean,
Sucked along in the flying wake
Of the luminous water-snake.


Alone! I am left alone once more–
(Save for the garment’s extreme fold
Abandoned still to bless my hold)
Alone, beside the entrance-door
Of a sort of temple,-perhaps a college,
–Like nothing I ever saw before
At home in England, to my knowledge.
The tall old quaint irregular town!
It may be… though which, I can’t affirm… any
Of the famous middle-age towns of Germany:
And this flight of stairs where I sit down,
Is it Halle, Weimar, Cassel, Frankfort
Or Gottingen, I have to thank for’t?
It may be Gottingen,–most likely.
Through the open door I catch obliquely
Glimpses of a lecture-hall;
And not a bad assembly neither,
Ranged decent and symmetrical
On benches, waiting what’s to see there:
Which, holding still by the vesture’s hem,
I also resolve to see with them,
Cautious this time how I suffer to slip
The chance of joining in fellowship
With any that call themselves his friends;
As these folk do, I have a notion.
But hist–a buzzing and emotion!
All settle themselves, the while ascends
By the creaking rail to the lecture-desk,
Step by step, deliberate
Because of his cranium’s over-freight,
Three parts sublime to one grotesque,
If I have proved an accurate guesser,
The hawk-nosed high-cheek-boned Professor.
I felt at once as if there ran
A shoot of love from my heart to the man–
That sallow virgin-minded studious
Martyr to mild enthusiasm,
As he uttered a kind of cough-preludious
That woke my sympathetic spasm,
(Beside some spitting that made me sorry)
And stood, surveying his auditory
With a wan pure look, well-nigh celestial,–
Those blue eyes had survived so much!
While, under the foot they could not smutch,
Lay all the fleshly and the bestial.
Over he bowed, and arranged his notes,
Till the auditory’s clearing of throats
Was done with, died into a silence;
And, when each glance was upward sent,
Each bearded mouth composed intent,
And a pin might be heard drop half a mile hence,–
He pushed back higher his spectacles,
Let the eyes stream out like lamps from cells,
And giving his head of hair–a hake
Of undressed tow, for colour and quantity–
One rapid and impatient shake,
(As our own Young England adjusts a jaunty tie
When about to impart, on mature digestion,
Some thrilling view of the surplice-question)
–The Professor’s grave voice, sweet though hoarse,
Broke into his Christmas-Eve discourse.


And he began it by observing
How reason dictated that men
Should rectify the natural swerving,
By a reversion, now and then,
To the well-heads of knowledge, few
And far away, whence rolling grew
The life-stream wide whereat we drink,
Commingled, as we needs must think,
With waters alien to the source;
To do which, aimed this eve’s discourse;
Since, where could be a fitter time
For tracing backward to its prime
This Christianity, this lake,
This reservoir, whereat we slake,
From one or other bank, our thirst?
So, he proposed inquiring first
Into the various sources whence
This Myth of Christ is derivable;
Demanding from the evidence,
(Since plainly no such life was livable)
How these phenomena should class?
Whether ’twere best opine Christ was,
Or never was at all, or whether
He was and was not, both together–
It matters little for the name,
So the idea be left the same.
Only, for practical purpose’ sake,
‘Twas obviously as well to take
The popular story,–understanding
How the ineptitude of the time,
And the penman’s prejudice, expanding
Fact into fable fit for the clime,
Had, by slow and sure degrees, translated it
Into this myth, this Individuum,–
Which, when reason had strained and abated it
Of foreign matter, left, for residuum,
A Man!–a right true man, however,
Whose work was worthy a man’s endeavour:
Work, that gave warrant almost sufficient
To his disciples, for rather believing
He was just omnipotent and omniscient,
As it gives to us, for as frankly receiving
His word, their tradition,–which, though it meant
Something entirely different
From all that those who only heard it,
In their simplicity thought and averred it,
Had yet a meaning quite as respectable:
For, among other doctrines delectable,
Was he not surely the first to insist on
The natural sovereignty of our race?–
Here the lecturer came to a pausing-place.
And while his cough, like a drouthy piston,
Tried to dislodge the husk that grew to him,
I seized the occasion of bidding adieu to him,
The vesture still within my hand.


I could interpret its command.
This time he would not bid me enter
The exhausted air-bell of the Critic.
Truth’s atmosphere may grow mephitic
When Papist struggles with Dissenter,
Impregnating its pristine clarity,
–One, by his daily fare’s vulgarity,
Its gust of broken meat and garlic;
–One, by his soul’s too-much presuming
To turn the frankincense’s fuming
And vapours of the candle starlike
Into the cloud her wings she buoys on.
Each, that thus sets the pure air seething,
May poison it for healthy breathing–
But the Critic leaves no air to poison;
Pumps out with ruthless ingenuity
Atom by atom, and leaves you–vacuity.
Thus much of Christ does he reject?
And what retain? His intellect?
What is it I must reverence duly?
Poor intellect for worship, truly,
Which tells me simply what was told
(If mere morality, bereft
Of the God in Christ, be all that’s left)
Elsewhere by voices manifold;
With this advantage, that the stater
Made nowise the important stumble
Of adding, he, the sage and humble,
Was also one with the Creator.
You urge Christ’s followers’ simplicity:
But how does shifting blame, evade it?
Have wisdom’s words no more felicity?
The stumbling-block, his speech–who laid it?
How comes it that for one found able
To sift the truth of it from fable,
Millions believe it to the letter?
Christ’s goodness, then–does that fare better?
Strange goodness, which upon the score
Of being goodness, the mere due
Of man to fellow-man, much more
To God,–should take another view
Of its possessor’s privilege,
And bid him rule his race! You pledge
Your fealty to such rule? What, all–
From heavenly John and Attic Paul,
And that brave weather-battered Peter,
Whose stout faith only stood completer
For buffets, sinning to be pardoned,
As, more his hands hauled nets, they hardened,–
All, down to you, the man of men,
Professing here at Gottingen,
Compose Christ’s flock! They, you and I,
Are sheep of a good man! And why?
The goodness,–how did he acquire it?
Was it self-gained, did God inspire it?
Choose which; then tell me, on what ground
Should its possessor dare propound
His claim to rise o’er us an inch?
Were goodness all some man’s invention,
Who arbitrarily made mention
What we should follow, and whence flinch,–
What qualities might take the style
Of right and wrong,–and had such guessing
Met with as general acquiescing
As graced the alphabet erewhile,
When A got leave an Ox to be,
No Camel (quoth the Jews) like G,–
For thus inventing thing and title
Worship were that man’s fit requital.
But if the common conscience must
Be ultimately judge, adjust
Its apt name to each quality
Already known,–I would decree
Worship for such mere demonstration
And simple work of nomenclature,
Only the day I praised, not nature,
But Harvey, for the circulation.
I would praise such a Christ, with pride
And joy, that he, as none beside,
Had taught us how to keep the mind
God gave him, as God gave his kind,
Freer than they from fleshly taint:
I would call such a Christ our Saint,
As I declare our Poet, him
Whose insight makes all others dim:
A thousand poets pried at life,
And only one amid the strife
Rose to be Shakespeare: each shall take
His crown, I’d say, for the world’s sake–
Though some objected–”Had we seen
“The heart and head of each, what screen
“Was broken there to give them light,
“While in ourselves it shuts the sight,
“We should no more admire, perchance,
“That these found truth out at a glance,
“Than marvel how the bat discerns
“Some pitch-dark cavern’s fifty turns,
“Led by a finer tact, a gift
“He boasts, which other birds must shift
“Without, and grope as best they can.”
No, freely I would praise the man,–
Nor one whit more, if he contended
That gift of his, from God descended.
Ah friend, what gift of man’s does not?
No nearer something, by a jot,
Rise an infinity of nothings
Than one: take Euclid for your teacher:
Distinguish kinds: do crownings, clothings,
Make that creator which was creature?
Multiply gifts upon man’s head,
And what, when all’s done, shall be said
But–the more gifted he, I ween!
That one’s made Christ, this other, Pilate,
And this might be all that has been,–
So what is there to frown or smile at?
What is left for us, save, in growth
Of soul, to rise up, far past both,
From the gift looking to the giver,
And from the cistern to the river,
And from the finite to infinity,
And from man’s dust to God’s divinity?


Take all in a word: the truth in God’s breast
Lies trace for trace upon curs impressed:
Though he is so bright and we so dim,
We are made in his image to witness him:
And were no eye in us to tell,
Instructed by no inner sense,
The light of heaven from the dark of hell,
That light would want its evidence,–
Though justice, good and truth were still
Divine, if, by some demon’s will,
Hatred and wrong had been proclaimed
Law through the worlds, and right misnamed.
No mere exposition of morality
Made or in part or in totality,
Should win you to give it worship, therefore:
And, if no better proof you will care for,
–Whom do you count the worst man upon earth?
Be sure, he knows, in his conscience, more
Of what right is, than arrives at birth
In the best man’s acts that we bow before:
This last knows better–true, but my fact is,
‘Tis one thing to know, and another to practise.
And thence I conclude that the real God-function
Is to furnish a motive and injunction
For practising what we know already.
And such an injunction and such a motive
As the God in Christ, do you waive, and “heady,
“High-minded,” hang your tablet-votive
Outside the fane on a finger-post?
Morality to the uttermost,
Supreme in Christ as we all confess,
Why need we prove would avail no jot
To make him God, if God he were not?
What is the point where himself lays stress?
Does the precept run “Believe in good,
“In justice, truth, now understood
“For the first time?”–or, “Believe in me,
“Who lived and died, yet essentially
“Am Lord of Life?” Whoever can take
The same to his heart and for mere love’s sake
Conceive of the love,–that man obtains
A new truth; no conviction gains
Of an old one only, made intense
By a fresh appeal to his faded sense.


Can it be that he stays inside?
Is the vesture left me to commune with?
Could my soul find aught to sing in tune with
Even at this lecture, if she tried?
Oh, let me at lowest sympathize
With the lurking drop of blood that lies
In the desiccated brain’s white roots
Without throb for Christ’s attributes,
As the lecturer makes his special boast!
If love’s dead there, it has left a ghost.
Admire we, how from heart to brain
(Though to say so strike the doctors dumb)
One instinct rises and falls again,
Restoring the equilibrium.
And how when the Critic had done his best,
And the pearl of price, at reason’s test,
Lay dust and ashes levigable
On the Professor’s lecture-table,–
When we looked for the inference and monition
That our faith, reduced to such condition,
Be swept forthwith to its natural dust-hole,–
He bids us, when we least expect it,
Take back our faith,–if it be not just whole,
Yet a pearl indeed, as his tests affect it,
Which fact pays damage done rewardingly,
So, prize we our dust and ashes accordingly!
“Go home and venerate the myth
“I thus have experimented with–
“This man, continue to adore him
“Rather than all who went before him,
“And all who ever followed after!”–
Surely for this I may praise you, my brother!
Will you take the praise in tears or laughter?
That’s one point gained: can I compass another?
Unlearned love was safe from spurning–
Can’t we respect your loveless learning?
Let us at least give learning honour!
What laurels had we showered upon her,
Girding her loins up to perturb
Our theory of the Middle Verb;
Or Turk-like brandishing a scimitar
O’er anapasts in comic-trimeter;
Or curing the halt and maimed ‘Iketides,’
While we lounged on at our indebted ease:
Instead of which, a tricksy demon
Sets her at Titus or Philemon!
When ignorance wags his ears of leather
And hates God’s word, ’tis altogether;
Nor leaves he his congenial thistles
To go and browse on Paul’s Epistles.
–And you, the audience, who might ravage
The world wide, enviably savage,
Nor heed the cry of the retriever,
More than Herr Heine (before his fever),–
I do not tell a lie so arrant
As say my passion’s wings are furled up,
And, without plainest heavenly warrant,
I were ready and glad to give the world up–
But still, when you rub brow meticulous,
And ponder the profit of turning holy
If not for God’s, for your own sake solely,
–God forbid I should find you ridiculous!
Deduce from this lecture all that eases you,
Nay, call yourselves, if the calling pleases you,
“Christians,”–abhor the deist’s pravity,–
Go on, you shall no more move my gravity
Than, when I see boys ride a-cockhorse,
I find it in my heart to embarrass them
By hinting that their stick’s a mock horse,
And they really carry what they say carries them.


So sat I talking with my mind.
I did not long to leave the door
And find a new church, as before,
But rather was quiet and inclined
To prolong and enjoy the gentle resting
From further tracking and trying and testing.
“This tolerance is a genial mood!”
(Said I, and a little pause ensued).
“One trims the bark ‘twixt shoal and shelf,
“And sees, each side, the good effects of it,
“A value for religion’s self,
“A carelessness about the sects of it.
“Let me enjoy my own conviction,
“Not watch my neighbour’s faith with fretfulness,
“Still spying there some dereliction
“Of truth, perversity, forgetfulness!”
Better a mild indifferentism,
“Teaching that both our faiths (though duller
“His shine through a dull spirit’s prism)
“Originally had one colour!
“Better pursue a pilgrimage
“Through ancient and through modern times
“To many peoples, various climes,
“Where I may see saint, savage, sage
“Fuse their respective creeds in one
“Before the general Father’s throne!”


–’Twas the horrible storm began afresh!
The black night caught me in his mesh,
Whirled me up, and flung me prone.
I was left on the college-step alone.
I looked, and far there, ever fleeting
Far, far away, the receding gesture,
And looming of the lessening vesture!–
Swept forward from my stupid hand,
While I watched my foolish heart expand
In the lazy glow of benevolence,
O’er the various modes of man’s belief.
I sprang up with fear’s vehemence.
Needs must there be one way, our chief
Best way of worship: let me strive
To find it, and when found, contrive
My fellows also take their share!
This constitutes my earthly care:
God’s is above it and distinct.
For I, a man, with men am linked
But not a brute with brutes; no gain
That I experience, must remain
Unshared: but should my best endeavour
To share it, fail–subsisteth ever
God’s care above, and I exult
That God, by God’s own ways occult,
May–doth, I will believe–bring back
All wanderers to a single track.
Meantime, I can but testify
God’s care for me–no more, can I–
It is but for myself I know;
The world rolls witnessing around me
Only to leave me as it found me;
Men cry there, but my ear is slow:
There races flourish or decay
–What boots it, while yon lucid way
Loaded with stars divides the vault?
But soon my soul repairs its fault
When, sharpening sense’s hebetude,
She turns on my own life! So viewed,
No mere mote’s-breadth but teems immense
With witnessings of providence:
And woe to me if when I look
Upon that record, the sole book
Unsealed to me, I take no heed
Of any warning that I read!
Have I been sure, this Christmas-Eve,
God’s own hand did the rainbow weave,
Whereby the truth from heaven slid
Into my soul?–I cannot bid
The world admit he stooped to heal
My soul, as if in a thunder-peal
Where one heard noise, and one saw flame,
I only knew he named my name:
But what is the world to me, for sorrow
Or joy in its censure, when to-morrow
It drops the remark, with just-turned head
Then, on again, ‘That man is dead’?
Yes, but for me–my name called,–drawn
As a conscript’s lot from the lap’s black yawn,
He has dipt into on a battle-dawn:
Bid out of life by a nod, a glance,–
Stumbling, mute-mazed, at nature’s chance,
With a rapid finger circled round,
Fixed to the first poor inch of ground
To fight from, where his foot was found;
Whose ear but a minute since lay free
To the wide camp’s buzz and gossipry–
Summoned, a solitary man
To end his life where his life began,
From the safe glad rear, to the dreadful van!
Soul of mine, hadst thou caught and held
By the hem of the vesture!–


And I caught
At the flying robe, and unrepelled
Was lapped again in its folds full-fraught
With warmth and wonder and delight,
God’s mercy being infinite.
For scarce had the words escaped my tongue,
When, at a passionate bound, I sprung,
Out of the wandering world of rain,
Into the little chapel again.


How else was I found there, bolt upright
On my bench, as if I had never left it?
–Never flung out on the common at night,
Nor met the storm and wedge-like cleft it,
Seen the raree-show of Peter’s successor,
Or the laboratory of the Professor!
For the Vision, that was true, I wist,
True as that heaven and earth exist.
There sat my friend, the yellow and tall,
With his neck and its wen in the selfsame place;
Yet my nearest neighbour’s cheek showed gall.
She had slid away a contemptuous space:
And the old fat woman, late so placable,
Eyed me with symptoms hardly mistakable,
Of her milk of kindness turning rancid.
In short, a spectator might have fancied
That I had nodded, betrayed by slumber.
Yet kept my scat, a warning ghastly,
Through the heads of the sermon, nine in number,
And woke up now at the tenth and lastly.
But again, could such disgrace have happened?
Each friend at my elbow had surely nudged it;
And, as for the sermon, where did my nap end?
Unless I heard it, could I have judged it?
Could I report as I do at the close,
First, the preacher speaks through his nose:
Second, his gesture is too emphatic:
Thirdly, to waive what’s pedagogic,
The subject-matter itself lacks logic:
Fourthly, the English is ungrammatic.
Great news! the preacher is found no Pascal,
Whom, if I pleased, I might to the task call
Of making square to a finite eye
The circle of infinity,
And find so all-but-just-succeeding!
Great news! the sermon proves no reading
Where bee-like in the flowers I bury me,
Like Taylor’s the immortal Jeremy!
And now that I know the very worst of him,
What was it I thought to obtain at first of him?
Ha! Is God mocked, as he asks,
Shall I take on me to change his tasks,
And dare, despatched to a river-head
For a simple draught of the element,
Neglect the thing for which he sent,
And return with another thing instead?–
Saying, “Because the water found
“Welling up from the underground,
“Is mingled with the taints of earth,
“While thou, I know, dost laugh at dearth,
“And couldst, at wink or word, convulse
“The world with the leap of a river-pulse,–
“Therefore I turned from the oozings muddy,
“And bring thee a chalice I found, instead;
“See the brave veins in the breccia ruddy!
“One would suppose that the marble bled.
“What matters the water? A hope I have nursed:
“The waterless cup will quench my thirst.”
–Better have knelt at the poorest stream
That trickles in pain from the straitest rift!
For the less or the more is all God’s gift,
Who blocks up or breaks wide the granite-seam.
And here, is there water or not, to drink?
I then, in ignorance and weakness,
Taking God’s help, have attained to think
My heart does best to receive in meekness
That mode of worship, as most to his mind,
Where earthly aids being cast behind,
His All in All appears serene
With the thinnest human veil between,
Letting the mystic lamps, the seven,
The many motions of his spirit,
Pass, as they list, to earth from heaven.
For the preacher’s merit or demerit,
It were to be wished the flaws were fewer
In the earthen vessel, holding treasure
Which lies as safe in a golden ewer;
But the main thing is, does it hold good measure?
Heaven soon sets right all other matters!–
Ask, else, these ruins of humanity,
This flesh worn out to rags and tatters,
This soul at struggle with insanity,
Who thence take comfort–can I doubt?–
Which an empire gained were a loss without.
May it be mine! And let us hope
That no worse blessing befall the Pope,
Turned sick at last of to-day’s buffoonery,
Of posturings and petticoatings,
Beside his Bourbon bully’s gloatings
In the bloody orgies of drunk poltroonery!
Nor may the Professor forego its peace
At Gottingen presently, when, in the dusk
Of his life, if his cough, as I fear, should increase,
Prophesied of by that horrible husk–
When thicker and thicker the darkness fills
The world through his misty spectacles,
And he gropes for something more substantial
Than a fable, myth or personification,–
May Christ do for him what no mere man shall,
And stand confessed as the God of salvation!
Meantime, in the still recurring fear
Lest myself, at unawares, be found,
While attacking the choice of my neighbours round,
With none of my own made–I choose here!
The giving out of the hymn reclaims me;
I have done: and if any blames me,
Thinking that merely to touch in brevity
The topics I dwell on, were unlawful,–
Or worse, that I trench, with undue levity,
On the bounds of the holy and the awful,–
I praise the heart, and pity the head of him,
And refer myself to THEE, instead of him,
Who head and heart alike discernest
Looking below light speech we utter,
When frothy spume and frequent sputter
Prove that the soul’s depths boil in earnest!
May truth shine out, stand ever before us!
I put up pencil and join chorus
To Hepzibah Tune, without further apology,
The last five verses of the third section
Of the seventeenth hymn of Whitfield’s Collection,
To conclude with the doxology.