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"Christmas Gifts" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The following is the complete text of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Christmas Gifts." Our presentation of this classic poem comes from The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1900). To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

Visit these other works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"Bertha in the Lane"
Short poems and sonnets
"The Complaint of Annelida to False Arcite"
"Crowned and Buried"
"The Dead Pan"
"Earth and her Praisers"
"An Island"
"The Lay of the Brown Rosary"
"A Lay of the Early Rose"
"The Lost Bower"

"Napoleon III in Italy"
"Night and the Merry Man"
"A Rhapsody of Life's Progress"
"Rhyme of the Duchess May"
"A Romance of the Ganges"
"The Romaunt of the Page"
"The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point"
"The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus"
"A Vision of Poets"

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, holiday 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 poem or short story for use in the classroom.

NOTE: We try to present these classic literary 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.

"Christmas Gifts" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


The Pope on Christmas Day
Sits in Saint Peter's chair;
But the peoples murmur and say,
"Our souls are sick and forlorn,
And who will show us where
Is the stable where Christ was born?"


The star is lost in the dark;
The manger is lost in the straw;
The Christ cries faintly . . . hark! . . .
Through bands that swaddle and strangle--
But the Pope in the chair of awe
Looks down the great quadrangle.


The Magi kneel at his foot,
Kings of the East and West,
But, instead of the angels, (mute
Is the "Peace on earth" of their song),
The peoples, perplexed and opprest,
Are sighing, "How long, how long?"


And, instead of the kine, bewilder in
Shadow of aisle and dome,
The bear who tore up the children,
The fox who burnt up the corn,
And the wolf who suckled at Rome
Brothers to slay and to scorn.


Cardinals left and right of him,
Worshippers round and beneath,
The silver trumpets at sight of him
Thrill with a musical blast:
But the people say through their teeth,
"Trumpets? we wait for the Last!"


He sits in the place of the Lord,
And asks for the gifts of the time;
Gold, for the haft of a sword
To win back Romagna averse,
Incense, to sweeten a crime,
And myrrh, to embitter a curse.


Then a king of the West said, "Good!"--
I bring thee the gifts of the time;
Red, for the patriot's blood,
Green, for the martyr's crown,
White, for the dew and the rime,
When the morning of God comes down."


--O mystic tricolor bright!
The Pope's heart quailed like a man's;
The cardinals froze at the sight,
Bowing their tonsures hoary:
And the eyes of the peacock-fans
Winked at the alien glory.


But the peoples exclaimed in hope,
"Now blessed be he who has brought
These gifts of the time to the Pope,
When our souls were sick and forlorn.
--And here is the star we sought,
To show us where Christ was born!"

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