Christmas-Eve! and all unruffled
Dumb white spectral billows grow,
Till the city's heart is muffled
In a deep, wide pall of snow,
Dead'ning clash of clang and clamor,
All the sound of tramping feet,
Folded by the Ice-king's glamour
In a wondrous winding-sheet.
Noiselessly his looms are weaving
Snowy warp and crystal woof;
Silently the winds are leaving
Draperies on spire and roof.
Laughing eyes that have been watching
For the snow so long in vain
Sleep, while elfish Frost is etching
Pictures on the window-pane.
Three bright little sleepers dreaming,--
Dreaming of the Christmas snow;
Three bright little stockings gleaming
Near the chimney in a row.
See a lady, softly gliding,
By each fair young sleeper pause,
Lest they wake and find her hiding
Treasures brought by "Santa Claus."
As she bends above the fairest,
Wondering eyes are opened wide;
Comes a whisper: "Mamma dearest,
I've had such a lovely ride."
"You were dreaming." "Yes, I know it,--
Such a pity, too, because
It was splendid fun to 'go it'
In a sleigh with 'Santa Claus.'
I was skating down the river,
Far away from all the rest,
Near the rocks where ice-spears quiver
Up above its frozen breast,
When a peal of bells came ringing--
Silver bells--in perfect time,
Like a band of spirits singing.
Soft they pealed a Christmas chime,
Every moment louder, clearer,
Till I saw a fairy sleigh
Gliding towards me,--nearer, nearer,--
Down the river's frozen way.
As it passed me, on I skated
Swiftly in its track, because
The elf behind that gay team seated
Was our dear old Santa Claus.
How he laughed to see me follow!
When I kissed my hand he cried,
'We fly faster than the swallow;
Little one, come take a ride.
Leave your skates upon the river;
There! jump in; but what you see
Must be secret, kept forever
Secret between you and me.'
Onward, onward we were sweeping
To an elfin land of rime,
Where the winter fays were keeping
Their enchanted Christmas-time.
On the snow-flakes they were riding,
Little dainty, white-winged fays,
Down the slender ice-spears sliding,
Chasing us in acorn sleighs,
From the frosted tree-tops swinging,
Countless throngs, with one accord,
They were softly, sweetly singing,
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
Far away from wood and river
Sped we, over fields of snow,
While beside us, onward ever,
Did that throng of fairies go,--
Beautiful mid-winter fairies,
With their crystal crowns and wings,
Skimming o'er the frozen prairies,
Swinging in their moonbeam swings.
Down the boreal streamers sliding,
Green, and blue, and violet fays
In soft airy circles gliding,
Clothed with splendor by the rays.
And beneath that borealis,
With its frozen domes and spires,
Stood old Santa's mystic palace,
Lighted by the northern fires.
Countless Christmas-trees were springing
From its wide, thick, icy floors,
And the toys upon them swinging
Would have filled ten thousand stores.
Ah! such lovely Christmas treasures,--
Dolls, books, kites, such lovely things,
Sugar-plums in bushel measures,
Candy-fruit, and hearts, and rings.
'You have robbed the world, Kriss Kringle,'
All amazed, at last I said.
How his merry eyes did twinkle,
As he drolly shook his head!
'Bless the children, little dearies!'
Toiling in their caves of rime
The beautiful mid-winter fairies
Make these toys for Christmas-time.
Then I heard the bright fays singing,
'Peace, good-will.' As Santa spoke,
Christmas chimes came softly ringing,
You looked at me,--and I woke."
"Darling, thank our dear Redeemer,"--
And the lady sadly smiled,--
"That you sleep a happy dreamer,
That you wake a happy child;
For poor children, sad and lonely,
Santa has no toys to give;
They care not for Christmas, only
Craving food enough to live.
Listen, love. As I was coming
Homeward down the crowded street,
A ragged little outcast, roaming
Through the snow with naked feet,
Overtook me, and unfolding
A pictorial, said, 'I came
To ask you ma'am,'--a print upholding,--
'Please to tell me what's his name.'
'Why, that is Santa Claus.' 'I never
Heard of him.' 'He comes,' I said,
'With Christmas toys.' 'Oh! does he ever
Bring the hungry children bread?'
'He might,' I answered, half in wonder,
For the child had turned and fled
Down the street, and vanished under-
Neath a lonely cottage shed.
Quick I followed, softly stealing
Near a broken pane, and there
To that torn, soiled picture kneeling--
Placed before her on a chair--
Was the little outcast, praying,
Light from her sad, longing eyes
Out beyond that dark roof, straying
To her Santa, in the skies.
And a sweet voice, full of sorrow,
Rose beyond that wretched shed:
'Please come, dear Santa Claus, tomorrow,
And bring us two big loaves of bread.'"
"He can hear her, mamma, can't he?
Won't he go there when he comes?
She is starved, to beg from Santa
Bread, instead of sugar-plums."
Sleep again, sweet little dreamer:
There is one to plead her cause,--
A human God, a kind Redeemer,
More human than Santa Claus.