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I like that old sweet legend Not found in Holy Writ, And wish that John or Matthew Had made Bible out of it. But though it is not Gospel, There is no law to hold The heart from growing better That hears the story told: How the little Jewish children Upon a summer day Went down across the meadows With the Child Christ to play, And in the gold-green valley Where low the reed-grass lay, They made them mock mud-sparrows Out of the meadow-clay. So, when these all were fashioned And ranged in flocks about, “Now,” said the little Jesus, “We’ll let the birds fly out.” Then all the happy children Did call, and coax, and cry— Each to his own mud-sparrow: “Fly, as I bid you—fly!” But earthen were the sparrows, And earth they did remain, Though loud the Jewish children Cried out and cried again— [196] Except the one bird only The little Lord Christ made. The earth that owned Him Master, —His earth heard and obeyed. Softly He leaned and whispered: “Fly up to heaven! fly!” And swift His little sparrow Went soaring to the sky. And silent all the children Stood awe-struck looking on, Till deep into the heavens The bird of earth had gone. I like to think for playmate We have the Lord Christ still, And that still above our weakness, He works His mighty will; That all our little playthings Of earthen hopes and joys Shall be by His commandment Changed into heavenly toys. Our souls are like the sparrows Imprisoned in the clay— Bless Him who came to give them wings, Upon a Christmas Day! [197] A Christmas Question. Rev. Minot J. Savage. [For concert recitation. In order to avoid monotony in the repetition of the question, the first line of the first stanza can be read with direct falling slides; of the second, with direct rising slides; of the third, with emphasis on the first word; of the fourth, with a perfect monotone; of the fifth, with emphasis on the second word; of the sixth, with direct rising slides.] I. When will He come? A captive nation dwell upon The river-banks of Babylon; What is the word they speak? The prophet’s eye looks down the years And kindles as the sight appears— “Messiah! him ye seek! Lo! the Lord’s anointed comes! and then Shall dwell the heavenly kingdom among men!” II. When will He come? The Christian answers, “Long ago The King was born in manger low. Him wicked men have slain, And now we wait with longing eye, And fix our look upon the sky; For He will come again, We pray and watch since He has gone away; For when He comes He’ll bring the perfect day.” III. When will He come? “Lo, here! Lo, there!” the foolish shout, And think that God will come without. But ever has it been, In spite of fabled tales that tell [198] Of magic and of miracle, That He has come within. Only through man, and man alone, Does God build up his righteous throne. IV. When will He come? When iron first was hammered out; When far shores heard the seaman’s shout; When letters first were known; When separate tribes to nations grew; When men their brotherhood first knew; When law first reached the throne: Each separate upward step that man has trod Has been a coming of the living God. V. When will He come? While you are looking far away, His tireless feet are nigh to-day; Each true word is His voice. All honest work, all noble trust, Each deed that lifts man from the dust, Each pure and manly choice, Each upward stair man’s toil-worn feet do climb, Is just another birth of God sublime. VI. When will He come? He’ll come to-morrow if you will; But cease your idle sitting still. Yes, He will come to-day. He will not come in clouds; but through Your doing all that you can do To help the right alway. Do honest work, and to the truth be true, And God already has appeared in you. [199] Wings. Dinah Mulock Craik. “Mother, oh, make me a pair of wings, Like the Christ-child’s adorning; Blue as the sky, with a gold star-eye— I’ll wear them on Christmas morning.” The mother worked with a careless heart All through that merry morning; Happy and blind, nor saw behind The shadow that gives no warning. He struck—and over the little face A sudden change came creeping; Twelve struggling hours against Death’s fierce powers, And then—he has left her sleeping. Strange sleep that no mother’s kiss can wake! Lay her pretty wings beside her; Strew white flowers sweet on her hands and feet, And under the white snow hide her. For the Christ-child called her out of her play, And, thus our earth-life scorning, She went away. What, dead, we say? She was born that Christmas morning. Wide Awake. [200] The Nativity. Louisa Parsons Hopkins. From Nazareth to Bethlehem, Their holy journey leading them By silver-towered Jerusalem. Beneath the palm-tree’s tossing plume, Amid the harvest’s rich perfume, No house could give them rest or room. So entering at the wayside cave, Where mountain-rills the limestone lave, The child was born a world to save. They laid him in the manger white; The lowing oxen saw the sight, And wondered at the dazzling light. The mother’s heart in sacred bliss Could dream no sweeter heaven than this, To greet her babe with mother’s kiss. And bending down with sacred awe, For a lost world the angels saw Love, the fulfilling of the law. A Christmas day, to be perfect, should be clear and cold, with holly branches in berry, a blazing fire, a dinner with mince-pies, and games and forfeits in the evening. You cannot have it in perfection if you are very fine and fashionable. A Christmas evening should, if possible, finish with music. It carries off the excitement without abruptness, and sheds a repose over the conclusion of enjoyment.—Leigh Hunt. [201] Christmas Bells. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. [For musical accompaniment] I heard the bells on Christmas-day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Till, ringing, swinging on its way, The world revolved from night to day A voice, a chime, A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black, accursèd mouth The cannon thundered in the South And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” [202] Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!” Christmas Roses. May Riley Smith. I gave into a brown and tirèd hand A stem of roses, sweet and creamy-white. I know the bells rang merry tunes that night, For it was Christmas time throughout the land, And all the skies were hung with lanterns bright. The brown hand held my roses gracelessly; They seemed more white within their dusky vase; A scarlet wave suffused the woman’s face. “My hands so seldom hold a flower,” said she, “I think the lovely things feel out of place.” O tirèd hands that are unused to flowers; O feet that tread on nettles all the way! God grant His peace may fold you round to-day, And cling in fragrance when these Christmas hours, With all their mirthfulness, have passed away! [203] NEW-YEAR’S. Address to the New Year. Dinah Mulock Craik. O good New Year! we clasp This warm, shut hand of thine, Loosing forever, with half sigh, half grasp, That which from ours falls like dead fingers’ twine. Ay, whether fierce its grasp Has been, or gentle, having been, we know That it was blessed: let the old year go. Friend, come thou like a friend; And, whether bright thy face, Or dim with clouds we cannot comprehend, We’ll hold our patient hands, each in his place, And trust thee to the end, Knowing thou leadest onwards to those spheres Where there are neither days nor months nor years. A New Year. Margaret E. Sangster. Why do we greet thee, O blithe New Year! What are thy pledges of mirth and cheer? Comest, knight-errant, the wrong to right? Comest to scatter our gloom with light? Wherefore the thrill, the sparkle and shine, In heart and eyes at a word of thine? [204] The old was buoyant, the old was true, The old was brave when the old was new. He crowned us often with grace and gift; His sternest skies had a deep blue rift. Straight and swift, when his hand unclasped, With welcome and joyance thine we grasped. O tell us, Year—we are fain to know— What is thy charm that we hail thee so? Dost promise much that is fair and sweet— The wind’s low stir in the rippling wheat, The waves’ soft plash on the sandy floor, The bloom of roses from shore to shore, Glance of wings from the bowery nest, Music and perfume from east to west, Frosts to glitter in jeweled rime, Blush of sunrise at morning’s prime, Stars above us their watch to keep, And rain and dew, though we wake or sleep? Once more a voice, and I hear it call Like a bugle-note from a mountain wall; The pines uplift it with mighty sound, The billows bear it the green earth round; A voice that rolls in a jubilant song, A conqueror’s ring in its echo strong; Through the ether clear, from the solemn sky The New Year beckons, and makes reply: “I bring you, friends, what the years have brought Since ever men toiled, aspired, or thought— Days for labor, and nights for rest; And I bring you love, a heaven-born guest; Space to work in, and work to do, And faith in that which is pure and true. Hold me in honor and greet me dear, And sooth you’ll find me a Happy Year.” Harper’s Bazar. [205] A Wish. Margaret Veley. If I could find the Little Year, The Happy Year, the glad New Year— If I could find him setting forth To seek the ancient track— I’d bring him here, the Little Year, Like a peddler with his pack. And all of golden brightness, And nothing dull or black, And all that heart could fancy, And all that life could lack, Should be your share of the peddlers ware, When he undid his pack. The best from out his treasure A smile of yours would coax, And then we’d speed him on his way, At midnight’s failing strokes; And bid him hurry round the world, And serve the other folks! Another Year. Nathaniel P. Willis. Sweetly hath passed the year; the seasons came Duly as they were wont, the gentle spring, And the delicious summer, and the cool, Rich autumn, with the nodding of the grain, And winter, like an old and hoary man, Frosty and stiff—and so are chronicled. We have read gladness in the new green leaf, And in the first-blown violets; we have drunk Cool water from the rock, and in the shade Sunk to the noontide slumber; we have plucked The mellow fruitage of the bending tree, And girded to our pleasant wanderings. [206] When the cool winds came freshly from the hills, And when the tinting of the autumn leaves Had faded from its glory, we have sat By the good fires of winter, and rejoiced Over the fullness of the gathered sheaf. The Child and the Year. Celia Thaxter. Said the child to the youthful year: “What hast thou in store for me, O giver of beautiful gifts! what cheer, What joy dost thou bring with thee?” “My seasons four shall bring Their treasures: the winter’s snows, The autumn’s store, and the flowers of spring, And the summer’s perfect rose. “All these and more shall be thine, Dear child,—but the last and best Thyself must earn by a strife divine, If thou wouldst be truly blest. “Wouldst know this last, best gift? ’Tis a conscience clear and bright, A peace of mind which the soul can lift To an infinite delight. “Truth, patience, courage, and love, If thou unto me canst bring, I will set thee all earth’s ills above, O child! and crown thee a king!” We are bound, by every rule of justice and equity, to give the New Year credit for being a good one until he proves himself unworthy the confidence we repose in him.—Charles Dickens. [207] THE SEASONS. A Song of Waking. Katharine Lee Bates. The maple buds are red, are red, The robin’s call is sweet; The blue sky floats above thy head, The violets kiss thy feet. The sun paints emeralds on the spray And sapphires on the lake; A million wings unfold to-day, A million flowers awake. Their starry cups the cowslips lift To catch the golden light, And like a spirit fresh from shrift The cherry tree is white. The innocent looks up with eyes That know no deeper shade Than falls from wings of butterflies Too fair to make afraid. With long, green raiment blown and wet The willows, hand in hand, Lean low to teach the rivulet What trees may understand Of murmurous tune and idle dance, With broken rhymes whose flow A poet’s ear shall catch, perchance, A score of miles below. Across the sky to fairy realm There sails a cloud-born ship; A wind sprite standeth at the helm, With laughter on his lip; [208] The melting masts are tipped with gold, The ’broidered pennons stream; The vessel beareth in her hold The lading of a dream. It is the hour to rend thy chains, The blossom time of souls; Yield all the rest to cares and pains, To-day delight controls. Gird on thy glory and thy pride, For growth is of the sun; Expand thy wings whate’er betide, The Summer is begun. “Early Spring.” Alfred Tennyson. I. Once more the Heavenly Power Makes all things new, And domes the red-plowed hills With loving blue; The blackbirds have their wills, The throstles too. II. Opens a door in Heaven From skies of glass; A Jacob’s-ladder falls On greening grass, And o’er the mountain-walls Young angels pass. III. Before them fleets the shower, And burst the buds, And shine the level lands, [209] And flash the floods; The stars are from their hands Flung through the woods. IV. O follow, leaping blood, The season’s lure! O heart, look down and up, Serene, secure, Warm as the crocus-cup, Like snow-drops, pure! V. For now the Heavenly Power Makes all things new, And thaws the cold and fills The flower with dew; The blackbirds have their wills, The poets too. Youth’s Companion. May. May comes laughing, crowned with daffodils, Her dress embroidered with blue violets, So gracious and so sweet she scarcely lets A thought return of all the winter’s ills. The orchards with enchanting wealth she fills; In the green marshes golden cowslip sets, And all the waking woodland spaces frets With shy anemones. But ah, she wills At times to frown in sudden wayward mood; The violets shiver clinging to the ground, She’s cold and blustering where once she wooed, And oftentimes in petulant tears is found; But like sweet women, who sometimes are cross, Her smiles come back the sweeter for their loss. Good Cheer. [210] June. She sits all day plaiting a wild-rose wreath, This daughter of the Sun, come from afar. Sweeter is she than her bright sisters are Who follow her across the flowery heath. A daisy is her sign, and underneath The meadow’s foamy flow the clovers wear Their uniforms of white and red, and bear Their cups of sweet to scent their mistress’ breath. What dawns are thine, O dear, delicious June, When at the drawing of thy curtain’s fold The birds awake and sing a marvelous tune To the young Day that comes in rose and gold! What twilights when the gray dusk hides thy face That thou mayst come with more enchanting grace! Travelers’ Record. Golden-rod. Lucy Larcom. Midsummer music in the grass— The cricket and the grasshopper; White daisies and red clover pass; The caterpillar trails her fur After the languid butterfly; But green and spring-like is the sod Where autumn’s earliest lamps I spy— The tapers of the golden-rod. This flower is fuller of the sun Than any our pale North can show; It has the heart of August won, And scatters wide the warmth and glow Kindled at summer’s mid-noon blaze, Where gentians of September bloom Along October’s leaf-strewn ways, And through November’s paths of gloom. [211] As lavish of its golden light As sunshine’s self, this blossom is; Its starry chandeliers burn bright All day; and have you noted this— A perfect sun in every flower,— Ten thousand thousand fairy suns, Raying from new disks hour by hour, As up the stalk the life-flash runs? Because its myriad glimmering plumes Like a great army’s stir and wave, Because its gold in billows blooms, The poor man’s barren walks to lave; Because its sun-shaped blossoms show How souls receive the light of God, And unto earth give back that glow— I thank Him for the golden-rod. Indian Summer. John G. Whittier. From gold to gray Our mild sweet day Of Indian summer fades too soon; But tenderly Above the sea Hangs, white and calm, the hunter’s moon. In its pale fire The village spire, Shows like the zodiac’s spectral lance, The painted walls Whereon it falls, Transfigured stand in marble trance. [212] September, 1815. William Wordsworth. While not a leaf seems faded, while the fields, With ripening harvests prodigally fair, In brightest sunshine bask, this nipping air, Sent from some distant clime where Winter wields His icy cimeter, a foretaste yields Of bitter change, and bids the flowers beware, And whispers to the silent birds, “Prepare Against the threatening foe your trustiest shields.” For me, who, under kindlier laws, belong To Nature’s tuneful choir, this rustling dry, Through the green leaves, and yon crystalline sky, Announce a season potent to renew, ’Mid frost and snow, the instinctive joys of song, And nobler cares than listless summer knew. October. William Cullen Bryant. Ay, thou art welcome, Heaven’s delicious breath, When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf, And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief, And the year smiles as it draws near its death. Wind of the sunny South, oh! still delay In the gay woods and in the golden air, Like to a good old age released from care, Journeying, in long serenity, away. In such a bright, late quiet, would that I Might wear out life like thee, ’mid bowers and brooks, And, dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks, And music of kind voices ever nigh, And, when my last sand twinkled in the glass, Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass. [213] Faded Leaves. Alice Cary. The hills are bright with maples yet; But down the level land The beech-leaves rustle in the wind As dry and brown as sand. The clouds in bars of rusty red Along the hilltops glow, And in the still sharp air the frost Is like a dream of snow. The berries of the brier rose Have lost their rounded pride, The bitter-sweet chrysanthemums Are drooping heavy-eyed. The cricket grows more friendly now, The dormouse sly and wise, Hiding away in disgrace Of nature from men’s eyes. The pigeons in black and wavering lines Are swinging toward the sun; And all the wide and withered fields Proclaim the summer done. His store of nuts and acorns now The squirrel hastes to gain, And sets his house in order for The winter’s dreary reign. ’Tis time to light the evening fire, To read good books, to sing The low and lovely songs that breathe Of the eternal spring.