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A Collection of Christmas Poems and Prose

Below you'll find a variety of classic holiday poems by various poets and authors.
This assortment of Christmas poems includes:
"A Child's Song of Christmas" by Marjorie L. C. Pickthall
"Christmas Afterthought" by James Whitcomb Riley
"A Christmas Carmen" by John Greenleaf Whittier
"Christmas in 1875" by William Cullen Bryant
"Christmas in India" by Rudyard Kipling
"The Christmas Long Ago" by James Whitcomb Riley
"The Christmas of 1888" by John Greenleaf Whittier
"A Christmas Verse" by Eugene Field
"Das Krist Kindel" by James Whitcomb Riley
"Little Mandy's Christmas-Tree" by James Whitcomb Riley
"The Mother's Hymn" by William Cullen Bryant
"A Mother's Secret" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
"The Mystic's Christmas" by John Greenleaf Whittier
"The Night Before Christmas" (a.k.a. "A Visit from St. Nicholas") by Clement C. Moore
"The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy
"The Story of the Holly Sprig" by Arthur Upson
"To Santa Claus" by James Whitcomb Riley
"The Star of Bethlehem" by William Cullen Bryant
"When Mary thro' the Garden Went" by Mary Coleridge

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.


Be sure and visit these Christmas stories
A Chaparral Christmas Gift by O. Henry
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar by Bret Harte
An Unfinished Christmas Story by O. Henry
Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking by O. Henry

Potential uses for the free books, stories and poetry we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, Christmas poem or story.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain eBooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a classic holiday poem or short story for use in the classroom.

NOTE: We try to present these classic poetic works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Seasons Greetings, Mele Kalikimaka, and Happy Holidays to one and all!


"A Child's Song of Christmas"

A CHILD'S SONG OF CHRISTMAS

BY MARJORIE LOWRY CHRISTIE PICKTHALL

My counterpane is soft as silk,
My blankets white as creamy milk.
The hay was soft to Him, I know,
Our little Lord of long ago.

Above the roof the pigeons fly
In silver wheels across the sky.
The stable doves they cooed to them,
Mary and Christ in Bethlehem.

Bright shines the sun across the drifts,
And bright upon my Christmas gifts.
They brought Him incense, myrrh, and gold,
Our little Lord who lived of old.

O, soft and clear our mother sings
Of Christmas joys and Christmas things.
God's holy angels sang to them,
Mary and Christ in Bethlehem.

Our hearts they hold all Christmas dear,
And earth seems sweet and heaven seems near.
O, heaven was in His sight, I know,
That little Child of long ago.


"Christmas Afterthought" by James Whitcomb Riley

CHRISTMAS AFTERTHOUGHT

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


After a thoughtful, almost painful pause,
Bub sighed, "I'm sorry fer old Santy Claus:--
They wuz no Santy Claus, ner couldn't be,
When he wuz ist a little boy like me!"


"A Christmas Carmen" by John Greenleaf Whittier

A CHRISTMAS CARMEN

BY JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

I.

Sound over all waters, reach out from all lands,
The chorus of voices, the clasping of hands;
Sing hymns that were sung by the stars of the morn,
Sing songs of the angels when Jesus was born!
With glad jubilations
Bring hope to the nations!
The dark night is ending and dawn has begun:
Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun,
All speech flow to music, all hearts beat as one!

II.

Sing the bridal of nations! with chorals of love
Sing out the war-vulture and sing in the dove,
Till the hearts of the peoples keep time in accord,
And the voice of the world is the voice of the Lord!
Clasp hands of the nations
In strong gratulations:
The dark night is ending and dawn has begun;
Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun,
All speech flow to music, all hearts beat as one!

III.

Blow, bugles of battle, the marches of peace;
East, west, north, and south let the long quarrel cease:
Sing the song of great joy that the angels began,
Sing of glory to God and of good-will to man!
Hark! joining in chorus
The heavens bend o'er us!
The dark night is ending and dawn has begun;
Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun,
All speech flow to music, all hearts beat as one!


"Christmas in 1875" by William Cullen Bryant

CHRISTMAS IN 1875

[SUPPOSED TO BE WRITTEN BY A SPANIARD]

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

No trumpet-blast profaned
The hour in which the Prince of Peace was born;
No bloody streamlet stained
Earth's silver rivers on that sacred morn;
But, o'er the peaceful plain,
The war-horse drew the peasant's loaded wain.

The soldier had laid by
The sword and stripped the corselet from his breast,
And hung his helm on high--
The sparrow's winter home and summer nest;
And, with the same strong hand
That flung the barbed spear, he tilled the land.

Oh, time for which we yearn;
Oh, sabbath of the nations long foretold!
Season of peace, return,
Like a late summer when the year grows old,
When the sweet sunny days
Steeped mead and mountain-side in golden haze.

For now two rival kings
Flaunt, o'er our bleeding land, their hostile flags,
And every sunrise brings
The hovering vulture from his mountain-crags
To where the battle-plain
Is strewn with dead, the youth and flower of Spain.

Christ is not come, while yet
O'er half the earth the threat of battle lowers,
And our own fields are wet,
Beneath the battle-cloud, with crimson showers--
The life-blood of the slain,
Poured out where thousands die that one may reign.

Soon, over half the earth,
In every temple crowds shall kneel again
To celebrate His birth
Who brought the message of good-will to men,
And bursts of joyous song
Shall shake the roof above the prostrate throng.

Christ is not come, while there
The men of blood whose crimes affront the skies
Kneel down in act of prayer,
Amid the joyous strains, and when they rise
Go forth, with sword and flame,
To waste the land in His most holy name.

Oh, when the day shall break
O'er realms unlearned in warfare's cruel arts,
And all their millions wake
To peaceful tasks performed with loving hearts,
On such a blessed morn,
Well may the nations say that Christ is born.


"Christmas in India" by Rudyard Kipling

CHRISTMAS IN INDIA

BY RUDYARD KIPLING


Dim dawn behind the tamarisks--the sky is saffron-yellow--
As the women in the village grind the corn,
And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow
That the Day, the staring Eastern Day is born.
O the white dust on the highway! O the stenches in the byway!
O the clammy fog that hovers over earth!
And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry--
What part have India's exiles in their mirth?

Full day behind the tamarisks--the sky is blue and staring--
As the cattle crawl afield beneath the yoke,
And they bear One o'er the field-path, who is past all hope or caring,
To the ghat below the curling wreaths of smoke.
Call on Rama, going slowly, as ye bear a brother lowly--
Call on Rama--he may hear, perhaps, your voice!
With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars,
And to-day we bid "good Christian men rejoice!"

High noon behind the tamarisks--the sun is hot above us--
As at Home the Christmas Day is breaking wan.
They will drink our healths at dinner--those who tell us how they love us,
And forget us till another year be gone!
O the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
O the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
Youth was cheap--wherefore we sold it. Gold was good--we hoped to hold it,
And to-day we know the fulness of our gain!

Grey dusk behind the tamarisks--the parrots fly together--
As the sun is sinking slowly over Home;
And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether.
That drags us back howe'er so far we roam.
Hard her service, poor her payment--she is ancient, tattered raiment--
India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind.
If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter,
The door is shut--we may not look behind.

Black night behind the tamarisks--the owls begin their chorus--
As the conches from the temple scream and bray.
With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
Let us honour, O my brothers, Christmas Day!
Call a truce, then, to our labours--let us feast with friends and neighbours,
And be merry as the custom of our caste;
For, if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after,
We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.


"The Christmas Long Ago" by James Whitcomb Riley

THE CHRISTMAS LONG AGO

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


Come, sing a hale Heigh-ho
For the Christmas long ago!--
When the old log-cabin homed us
From the night of blinding snow,
Where the rarest joy held reign,
And the chimney roared amain,
With the firelight like a beacon
Through the frosty window-pane.

Ah! the revel and the din
From without and from within,
The blend of distant sleigh-bells
With the plinking violin;
The muffled shrieks and cries--
Then the glowing cheeks and eyes--
The driving storm of greetings,
Gusts of kisses and surprise.

Sing--sweetest of all glees--
Of the taffy-makers, please,--
And, round the saucers in the snow,
The children thick as bees;
And sing each chubby cheek,
Chin and laughing lip astreak
With still a sweeter sweetness than
The tongue of Song can speak

Sing in again the mirth
Of the circle round the hearth,
With the rustic Sindbad telling us
The strangest tales on earth!
And the Minstrel Bard we knew,
With his "Love-i-er so True,"
Likewise his "Young House-K-yarpen-ter,"
And "Loved Henry," too!

And, forgetting ne'er a thing,
Lift a gladder voice and sing
Of the dancers in the kitchen--
Clean from start to "pigeon-wing"!
Sing the glory and the glee
And the joy and jubilee,--
The twirling form--the quickened breath--
The sigh of ecstasy.--

The eyes that smile alone
Back into our happy own--
The leaping pulse--the laughing blood--
The trembling undertone!--
Ho! pair us off once more,
With our feet upon the floor
And our heads and hearts in heaven,
As they were in days of yore!


"The Christmas of 1888" by John Greenleaf Whittier

THE CHRISTMAS OF 1888

BY JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

Low in the east, against a white, cold dawn,
The black-lined silhouette of the woods was drawn,
And on a wintry waste
Of frosted streams and hillsides bare and brown,
Through thin cloud-films, a pallid ghost looked down,
The waning moon half-faced!

In that pale sky and sere, snow-waiting earth,
What sign was there of the immortal birth?
What herald of the One?
Lo! swift as thought the heavenly radiance came,
A rose-red splendor swept the sky like flame,
Up rolled the round, bright sun!

And all was changed. From a transfigured world
The moon's ghost fled, the smoke of home-hearths curled
Up the still air unblown.
In Orient warmth and brightness, did that morn
O'er Nain and Nazareth, when the Christ was born,
Break fairer than our own?

The morning's promise noon and eve fulfilled
In warm, soft sky and landscape hazy-hilled
And sunset fair as they;
A sweet reminder of His holiest time,
A summer-miracle in our winter clime,
God gave a perfect day.

The near was blended with the old and far,
And Bethlehem's hillside and the Magi's star
Seemed here, as there and then,--
Our homestead pine-tree was the Syrian palm,
Our heart's desire the angels' midnight psalm,
Peace, and good-will to men!


"A Christmas Verse" by Eugene Field

A CHRISTMAS VERSE

BY EUGENE FIELD

Why do the bells of Christmas ring?
Why do little children sing?

Once a lovely shining star,
Seen by shepherds from afar,
Gently moved until its light
Made a manger's cradle bright.

There a darling baby lay,
Pillowed soft upon the hay.
And its mother sung and smiled:
"This is Christ, the holy Child!"

Therefore bells for Christmas ring,
Therefore little children sing.


"Das Krist Kindel" by James Whitcomb Riley
0
DAS KRIST KINDEL

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

I had fed the fire and stirred it, till the sparkles in delight
Snapped their saucy little fingers at the chill December night;
And in dressing-gown and slippers, I had tilted back "my throne"--
The old split-bottomed rocker--and was musing all alone.

I could hear the hungry Winter prowling round the outer door,
And the tread of muffled footsteps on the white piazza floor;
But the sounds came to me only as the murmur of a stream
That mingled with the current of a lazy-flowing dream.

Like a fragrant incense rising, curled the smoke of my cigar,
With the lamplight gleaming through it like a mist-enfolded star;--
And as I gazed, the vapor like a curtain rolled away,
With a sound of bells that tinkled, and the clatter of a sleigh.

And in a vision, painted like a picture in the air,
I saw the elfish figure of a man with frosty hair--
A quaint old man that chuckled with a laugh as he appeared,
And with ruddy cheeks like embers in the ashes of his beard.

He poised himself grotesquely, in an attitude of mirth,
On a damask-covered hassock that was sitting on the hearth;
And at a magic signal of his stubby little thumb,
I saw the fireplace changing to a bright proscenium.

And looking there, I marveled as I saw a mimic stage
Alive with little actors of a very tender age;
And some so very tiny that they tottered as they walked,
And lisped and purled and gurgled like the brooklets, when they talked.

And their faces were like lilies, and their eyes like purest dew,
And their tresses like the shadows that the shine is woven through;
And they each had little burdens, and a little tale to tell
Of fairy lore, and giants, and delights delectable.

And they mixed and intermingled, weaving melody with joy,
Till the magic circle clustered round a blooming baby-boy;
And they threw aside their treasures in an ecstacy of glee,
And bent, with dazzled faces and with parted lips, to see.

'Twas a wondrous little fellow, with a dainty double-chin,
And chubby cheeks, and dimples for the smiles to blossom in;
And he looked as ripe and rosy, on his bed of straw and reeds,
As a mellow little pippin that had tumbled in the weeds.

And I saw the happy mother, and a group surrounding her
That knelt with costly presents of frankincense and myrrh;
And I thrilled with awe and wonder, as a murmur on the air
Came drifting o'er the hearing in a melody of prayer:--


By the splendor in the heavens, and the hush upon the sea,
And the majesty of silence reigning over Galilee,--
We feel Thy kingly presence, and we humbly bow the knee
And lift our hearts and voices in gratefulness to Thee.

Thy messenger has spoken, and our doubts have fled and gone
As the dark and spectral shadows of the night before the dawn;
And, in the kindly shelter of the light around us drawn,
We would nestle down forever in the breast we lean upon.

You have given us a shepherd--You have given us a guide,
And the light of Heaven grew dimmer when You sent him from Your side,--
But he comes to lead Thy children where the gates will open wide
To welcome his returning when his works are glorified.

By the splendor in the heavens, and the hush upon the sea,
And the majesty of silence reigning over Galilee,--
We feel Thy kingly presence, and we humbly bow the knee
And lift our hearts and voices in gratefulness to Thee.



Then the vision, slowly failing, with the words of the refrain,
Fell swooning in the moonlight through the frosty window-pane;
And I heard the clock proclaiming, like an eager sentinel
Who brings the world good tidings,--"It is Christmas--all is well!"


"Dot Leedle Boy" by James Whitcomb Riley
1
DOT LEEDLE BOY

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

Ot's a leedle Ghristmas story
Dot I told der leedle folks--
Und I vant you stop dot laughin'
Und grackin' funny jokes'--
So help me Peter-Moses!
Ot's no time for monkeyshine',
Ober I vas told you somedings
Of dot leedle boy of mine!

Ot vas von cold Vinter vedder,
Ven der snow vas all about--
Dot you have to chop der hatchet
Eef you got der saurkraut!
Und der cheekens on der hind leg
Vas standin' in der shine
Der sun shmile out dot morning
On dot leedle boy of mine.

He vas yoost a leedle baby
Not bigger as a doll
Dot time I got acquaintet--
Ach! you ought to heard 'im squall!--
I grackys! dot's der moosic
Ot make me feel so fine
Ven first I vas been marriet--
Oh, dot leedle boy of mine!

He look' yoost like his fader!--
So, ven der vimmen said
"Vot a purty leedle baby!"
Katrina shake der head. . . .
I dink she must 'a' notice
Dot der baby vas a-gryin',
Und she cover up der blankets
Of dot leedle boy of mine.

Vel, ven he vas got bigger,
Dot he grawl und bump his nose,
Und make der table over,
Und molasses on his glothes--
Dot make 'im all der sveeter,--
So I say to my Katrine
"Better you vas quit a-shpankin'
Dot leedle boy of mine!"

No more he vas older
As about a dozen months
He speak der English language
Und der German--bote at vonce!
Und he dringk his glass of lager
Like a Londsman fon der Rhine--
Und I klingk my glass togeder
Mit dot leedle boy of mine!

I vish you could 'a' seen id--
Ven he glimb up on der chair
Und shmash der lookin'-glasses
Ven he try to comb his hair
Mit a hammer!--Und Katrina
Say "Dot's an ugly sign!"
But I laugh und vink my fingers
At dot leedle boy of mine.

But vonce, dot Vinter morning,
He shlip out in der snow
Mitout no stockin's on 'im.--
He say he "vant to go
Und fly some mit der birdies!"
Und ve give 'im medi-cine
Ven he catch der "parrygoric"--
Dot leedle boy of mine!

Und so I set und nurse 'im,
Vile der Ghristmas vas come roun',
Und I told 'im 'bout "Kriss Kringle,"
How he come der chimbly down:
Und I ask 'im eef he love 'im
Eef he bring 'im someding fine?
"Nicht besser as mein fader,"
Say dot leedle boy of mine.--

Und he put his arms aroun' me
Und hug so close und tight,
I hear der gclock a-tickin'
All der balance of der night! . . .
Someding make me feel so funny
Ven I say to my Katrine,
"Let us go und fill der stockin's
Of dot leedle boy of mine."

Vell.--Ve buyed a leedle horses
Dot you pull 'im mit a shtring,
Und a leedle fancy jay-bird--
Eef you vant to hear 'im sing
You took 'im by der topknot
Und yoost blow in behine--
Und dot make much spectakel--
For dot leedle boy of mine!

Und gandies, nuts und raizens--
Und I buy a leedle drum
Dot I vant to hear 'im rattle
Ven der Gristmas morning come!
Und a leedle shmall tin rooster
Dot vould crow so loud und fine
Ven he sqveeze 'im in der morning,
Dot leedle boy of mine!

Und--vile ve vas a-fixin'--
Dot leedle boy vake out!
I t'ought he been a-dreamin'
"Kriss Kringle" vas about,--
For he say--"Dot's him!--I see 'im
Mit der shtars dot make der shine!"
Und he yoost keep on a-gryin'--
Dot leedle boy of mine,--

Und gottin' vorse und vorser--
Und tumble on der bed!
So--ven der doctor seen id,
He kindo' shake his head,
Und feel his pulse--und visper
"Der boy is a-dyin'."
You dink I could believe id?--
Dot leedle boy of mine?

I told you, friends--dot's someding,
Der last time dot he speak
Und say "Goot-bye, Kriss Kringle!"
--Dot make me feel so veak
I yoost kneel down und drimble,
Und bur-sed out a-gryin'
"Mein Gott, mein Gott im Himmel!--
Dot leedle boy, of mine!"

* * * * * *

Der sun don't shine dot Gristmas!
. . . Eef dot leedle boy vould liff'd--
No deefer-en'! for Heaven vas
His leedle Gristmas-gift! . . .
Und der rooster, und der gandy,
Und me--und my Katrine--
Und der jay-bird--is a-vaiting
For dot leedle boy of mine.


"Little Mandy's Christmas-Tree" by James Whitcomb Riley
2
LITTLE MANDY'S CHRISTMAS-TREE

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


LITTLE Mandy and her Ma
'S porest folks you ever saw!--
Lived in porest house in town.
Where the fence 'uz all tore down.

And no front-door steps at all--
Ist a' old box 'g'inst the wall;
And no door-knob on the door
Outside. My! but they 'uz pore!

Wuz no winder-shutters on,
And some of the winders gone,
And where they 'uz broke they'd pas'e
Ist brown paper 'crost the place.

Tell you! when it's winter there,
And the snow ist ever'where,
Little Mandy's Ma she say
'Spec' they'll freeze to death some day.

Wunst my Ma and me--when we
Be'n to church, and's goin' to be
Chris'mus purty soon,--we went
There--like the Committee sent

And-sir! when we're in the door,
Wuz no carpet on the floor,
And no fire--and heels-and-head
Little Mandy's tucked in bed!

And her Ma telled my Ma she
Got no coffee but ist tea,
And fried mush--and's all they had
Sence her health broke down so bad.

Nen Ma hug and hold me where
Little Mandy's layin' there;
And she kiss her, too, and nen
Mandy kiss my Ma again.

And my Ma she telled her we
Goin' to have a Chris'mus-Tree,
At the Sund'y School, 'at's fer
ALL the childern, and fer her.

Little Mandy think--nen she
Say, "What is a Chris'mus-Tree?" . . .
Nen my Ma she gived her Ma
Somepin' 'at I never saw,

And say she must take it,--and
She ist maked her keep her hand
Wite close shut,--and nen she kiss
Her hand--shut ist like it is.

Nen we comed away. . . . And nen
When it's Chris'mus Eve again,
And all of us childerns be
At the Church and Chris'mus-Tree,--

And all git our toys and things
'At old Santy Claus he brings
And puts on the Tree;--wite where
The big Tree 'uz standin' there,

And the things 'uz all tooked down,
And the childerns, all in town,
Got their presents--nen we see
They's a little Chris'mus-Tree

Wite behind the big Tree--so
We can't see till nen, you know,--
And it's all ist loaded down
With the purtiest things in town!

And the teacher smile and say:
"This-here Tree 'at's hid away
It's marked 'Little Mandy's Tree.'
Little Mandy! Where is she?"

Nen nobody say a word.--
Stillest place you ever heard!--
Till a man tiptoe up where
Teacher's still a-waitin' there.

Nen the man he whispers, so
Ist the Teacher hears, you know.
Nen he tiptoe back and go
Out the big door--ist as slow!

Little Mandy, though, she don't
Answer--and Ma say "she won't
Never, though each year they'll be
'Little Mandy's Chris'mus-Tree'

Fer pore childern"--my Ma says--
And Committee say they guess
"Little Mandy's Tree" 'ull be
Bigger nan the other Tree!


"The Mother's Hymn" by William Cullen Bryant
3
THE MOTHER'S HYMN

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

Lord, who ordainest for mankind
Benignant toils and tender cares!
We thank Thee for the ties that bind
The mother to the child she bears.

We thank Thee for the hopes that rise,
Within her heart, as, day by day,
The dawning soul, from those young eyes,
Looks, with a clearer, steadier ray.

And grateful for the blessing given
With that dear infant on her knee,
She trains the eye to look to heaven,
The voice to lisp a prayer to Thee.

Such thanks the blessed Mary gave,
When, from her lap, the Holy Child,
Sent from on high to seek and save
The lost of earth, looked up and smiled.

All-Gracious! grant, to those that bear
A mother's charge, the strength and light
To lead the steps that own their care
In ways of Love, and Truth, and Right.


"A Mother's Secret" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
4
A MOTHER'S SECRET

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

How sweet the sacred legend--if unblamed
In my slight verse such holy things are named--
Of Mary's secret hours of hidden joy,
Silent, but pondering on her wondrous boy!
Ave, Maria! Pardon, if I wrong
Those heavenly words that shame my earthly song!
The choral host had closed the Angel's strain
Sung to the listening watch on Bethlehem's plain,
And now the shepherds, hastening on their way,
Sought the still hamlet where the Infant lay.
They passed the fields that gleaning Ruth toiled o'er,--
They saw afar the ruined threshing-floor
Where Moab's daughter, homeless and forlorn,
Found Boaz slumbering by his heaps of corn;
And some remembered how the holy scribe,
Skilled in the lore of every jealous tribe,
Traced the warm blood of Jesse's royal son
To that fair alien, bravely wooed and won.
So fared they on to seek the promised sign,
That marked the anointed heir of David's line.
At last, by forms of earthly semblance led,
They found the crowded inn, the oxen's shed.
No pomp was there, no glory shone around
On the coarse straw that strewed the reeking ground;
One dim retreat a flickering torch betrayed,--
In that poor cell the Lord of Life was laid!
The wondering shepherds told their breathless tale
Of the bright choir that woke the sleeping vale;
Told how the skies with sudden glory flamed,
Told how the shining multitude proclaimed,
"Joy, joy to earth! Behold the hallowed morn!
In David's city Christ the Lord is born!
'Glory to God!' let angels shout on high,
'Good-will to men!' the listening earth reply!"
They spoke with hurried words and accents wild;
Calm in his cradle slept the heavenly child.
No trembling word the mother's joy revealed,--
One sigh of rapture, and her lips were sealed;
Unmoved she saw the rustic train depart,
But kept their words to ponder in her heart.

Twelve years had passed; the boy was fair and tall,
Growing in wisdom, finding grace with all.
The maids of Nazareth, as they trooped to fill
Their balanced urns beside the mountain rill,
The gathered matrons, as they sat and spun,
Spoke in soft words of Joseph's quiet son.
No voice had reached the Galilean vale
Of star-led kings, or awe-struck shepherd's tale;
In the meek, studious child they only saw
The future Rabbi, learned in Israel's law.
So grew the boy, and now the feast was near
When at the Holy Place the tribes appear.
Scarce had the home-bred child of Nazareth seen
Beyond the hills that girt the village green;
Save when at midnight, o'er the starlit sands,
Snatched from the steel of Herod's murdering bands,
A babe, close folded to his mother's breast,
Through Edom's wilds he sought the sheltering West.
Then Joseph spake: "Thy boy hath largely grown;
Weave him fine raiment, fitting to be shown;
Fair robes beseem the pilgrim, as the priest:
Goes he not with us to the holy feast?"
And Mary culled the flaxen fibres white;
Till eve she spun; she spun till morning light.
The thread was twined; its parting meshes through
From hand to hand her restless shuttle flew,
Till the full web was wound upon the beam;
Love's curious toil,--a vest without a seam!
They reach the Holy Place, fulfil the days
To solemn feasting given, and grateful praise.
At last they turn, and far Moriah's height
Melts in the southern sky and fades from sight.
All day the dusky caravan has flowed
In devious trails along the winding road;
(For many a step their homeward path attends,
And all the sons of Abraham are as friends.)
Evening has come,--the hour of rest and joy,--
Hush! Hush! That whisper,--"Where is Mary's boy?"
O, weary hour! O, aching days that passed
Filled with strange fears each wilder than the last,--
The soldier's lance, the fierce centurion's sword,
The crushing wheels that whirl some Roman lord,
The midnight crypt that sucks the captive's breath,
The blistering sun on Hinnom's vale of death!
Thrice on his cheek had rained the morning light;
Thrice on his lips the mildewed kiss of night,
Crouched by a sheltering column's shining plinth,
Or stretched beneath the odorous terebinth.
At last, in desperate mood, they sought once more
The Temple's porches, searched in vain before;
They found him seated with the ancient men,--
The grim old rufflers of the tongue and pen,--
Their bald heads glistening as they clustered near,
Their gray beards slanting as they turned to hear,
Lost in half-envious wonder and surprise
That lips so fresh should utter words so wise.
And Mary said,--as one who, tried too long,
Tells all her grief and half her sense of wrong,--
"What is this thoughtless thing which thou hast done?
Lo, we have sought thee sorrowing, O my son!"
Few words he spake, and scarce of filial tone,
Strange words, their sense a mystery yet unknown;
Then turned with them and left the holy hill,
To all their mild commands obedient still.
The tale was told to Nazareth's sober men,
And Nazareth's matrons told it oft again;
The maids retold it at the fountain's side,
The youthful shepherds doubted or denied;
It passed around among the listening friends,
With all that fancy adds and fiction lends,
Till newer marvels dimmed the young renown
Of Joseph's son, who talked the Rabbis down.
But Mary, faithful to its lightest word,
Kept in her heart the sayings she had heard,
Till the dread morning rent the Temple's veil,
And shuddering earth confirmed the wondrous tale.

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall:
A mother's secret hope outlives them all.


"The Mystic's Christmas" by John Greenleaf Whittier
5
THE MYSTIC'S CHRISTMAS

BY JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

"All hail!" the bells of Christmas rang,
"All hail!" the monks at Christmas sang,
The merry monks who kept with cheer
The gladdest day of all their year.

But still apart, unmoved thereat,
A pious elder brother sat
Silent, in his accustomed place,
With God's sweet peace upon his face.

"Why sitt'st thou thus?" his brethren cried.
"It is the blessed Christmas-tide;
The Christmas lights are all aglow,
The sacred lilies bud and blow.

"Above our heads the joy-bells ring,
Without the happy children sing,
And all God's creatures hail the morn
On which the holy Christ was born!

"Rejoice with us; no more rebuke
Our gladness with thy quiet look."
The gray monk answered: "Keep, I pray,
Even as ye list, the Lord's birthday.

"Let heathen Yule fires flicker red
Where thronged refectory feasts are spread;
With mystery-play and masque and mime
And wait-songs speed the holy time!

"The blindest faith may haply save;
The Lord accepts the things we have;
And reverence, howsoe'er it strays,
May find at last the shining ways.

"They needs must grope who cannot see,
The blade before the ear must be;
As ye are feeling I have felt,
And where ye dwell I too have dwelt.

"But now, beyond the things of sense,
Beyond occasions and events,
I know, through God's exceeding grace,
Release from form and time and place.

"I listen, from no mortal tongue,
To hear the song the angels sung;
And wait within myself to know
The Christmas lilies bud and blow.

"The outward symbols disappear
From him whose inward sight is clear;
And small must be the choice of days
To him who fills them all with praise!

"Keep while you need it, brothers mine,
With honest zeal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born!"


"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore
6
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Originally titled "A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS"

BY CLEMENT C. 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 down 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 lustre of midday 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, Donner 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 housetop 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 bowl full 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 of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"


"The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy
7
THE OXEN

BY THOMAS HARDY

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in fireside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.


"The Star of Bethlehem" by William Cullen Bryant
8
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

As shadows cast by cloud and sun
Flit o'er the summer grass,
So, in Thy sight, Almighty One!
Earth's generations pass.

And while the years, an endless host,
Come pressing swiftly on,
The brightest names that earth can boast
Just glisten, and are gone.

Yet doth the Star of Bethlehem shed
A lustre pure and sweet;
And still it lends, as once it led,
To the Messiah's feet.

And deeply, at this later day,
Our hearts rejoice to see
How children, guided by its ray,
Come to the Saviour's knee.

O Father, may that Holy Star
Grow every year more bright,
And send its glorious beam afar,
To fill the world with light.


"The Story of the Holly Sprig" by Arthur Upson
9
THE STORY OF THE HOLLY SPRIG

BY ARTHUR UPSON

"I'd be the shiniest green,"
Wished once a sprig of holly,
"That e'er at Yule was seen,
And deck some banquet jolly!"

"I'd be the cheeriest red,"
Wished once the holly-berry,
"That e'er at board rich spread
Helped make the feasters merry!"

The life within them heard
Down dark and silent courses,
For each wish is a word
To those fair-hidden sources.

All Summer in the wood
While they were riper growing,
The deep roots understood,
And helped without their knowing.

In a little market stall
At Yule the sprig lay waiting,
For fine folk one and all
Passed by that open grating.

The Eve of Christmas Day
It had been passed by many,
When one turned not away
And bought it for a penny.

Hers was a home of care
Which not a wreath made jolly;
The only Christmas there
Was that sweet sprig of holly.

"Oh, this is better far
Than banquet!" thought the berry;
The leaves glowed like a star
And made the cottage merry!


"To Santa Claus" by James Whitcomb Riley
0
TO SANTA CLAUS

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


Most tangible of all the gods that be,
O Santa Claus--our own since Infancy!--
As first we scampered to thee--now, as then,
Take us as children to thy heart again.

Be wholly good to us, just as of old:
As a pleased father, let thine arms infold
Us, homed within the haven of thy love,
And all the cheer and wholesomeness thereof.

Thou lone reality, when O so long
Life's unrealities have wrought us wrong:
Ambition hath allured us,--fame likewise,
And all that promised honor in men's eyes.

Throughout the world's evasions, wiles, and shifts,
Thou only bidest stable as thy gifts:--
A grateful king re-ruleth from thy lap,
Crowned with a little tinselled soldier-cap:

A mighty general--a nation's pride--
Thou givest again a rocking-horse to ride,
And wildly glad he groweth as the grim
Old jurist with the drum thou givest him:

The sculptor's chisel, at thy mirth's command,
Is as a whistle in his boyish hand;
The painter's model fadeth utterly,
And there thou standest,--and he painteth thee:--

Most like a winter pippin, sound and fine
And tingling-red that ripe old face of thine,
Set in thy frosty beard of cheek and chin
As midst the snows the thaws of spring set in.

Ho! Santa Claus--our own since Infancy--
Most tangible of all the gods that be!--
As first we scampered to thee--now, as then,
Take us as children to thy heart again.


"When Mary Thro' the Garden Went" by Mary Coleridge
1
WHEN MARY THRO' THE GARDEN WENT

BY MARY COLERIDGE

When Mary thro' the garden went,
There was no sound of any bird,
And yet, because the night was spent,
The little grasses lightly stirred,
The flowers awoke, the lilies heard.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
The dew lay still on flower and grass,
The waving palms above her sent
Their fragrance out as she did pass.
No light upon the branches was.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
Her eyes, for weeping long, were dim.
The grass beneath her footsteps bent,
The solemn lilies, white and slim,
These also stood and wept for Him.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
She sought, within the garden ground,
One for Whom her heart was rent,
One Who for her sake was bound,
One Who sought and she was found.


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