Posts Tagged ‘poem’


THE CITY had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.


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Men may talk of country-Christmasses and court-gluttony,
Their thirty-pound* buttered eggs, their pies of carp’s tongues,
Their pheasants drenched with ambergris, the carcases
Of three fat wethers bruised for gravy, to
Make sauce for a single peacock; yet their feasts
Were fasts, compared with the city’s…

Did you not observe it?
There were three sucking pigs served up in a dish,
Ta’en from the sow as soon as farrowed,
A fortnight fed with dates and muskadine,
That stood my master in twenty marks apiece,
Besides the puddings in their bellies, made
Of I know not what. — I dare swear the cook that dressed it
Was the devil, disguised like a Dutchman.

Phillip Massinger (1583-1640)

*About 240 eggs

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Excerpt from "Snow-Bound" (1865), by James Greenleaf Whittier

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"Good Hours" by Robert Frost ("North of Boston," 1915)
I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  North of Boston, 1915.

Robert Frost, American National Poet

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When winter nights grow long,
And winds without grow cold,
We sit in a ring round the warm wood-fire
And listen to stories old!
And we try to look grave (as maids should be)
When the men bring the boughs of the Laurel tree.
O the Laurel, the evergreen tree!
The poets have laurels, and why not we?

How pleasant, when night falls down
And hides the wintry sun,
To see them come in to the blazing fire,
And know that their work is done;
Whilst many bring in, with a laugh or rhyme,
Green branches of Holly for Christmas time!
O the Holly, the bright green Holly,
It tells (like a tongue) that the times are jolly!

Sometimes (in our grave house,
Observe, this happeneth not),
But, at times the evergreen laurel boughs
And the holly are all forgot!
And then! what then? why, the men laugh low,
And hang up a branch of the mistletoe!
O brave is the laurel! and brave is the holly!
But the Mistletoe banisheth melancholy!
Ah, nobody knows, nor ever shall know,
What is done–under the Mistletoe.

Bryan Waller Procter (1787-1874)

Christmas Holly

Bryan Waller Procter

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Old Man Winter is coming in,
Wearing a cloak of darkling days, and
Clear, hard-frosted nights, when
Legions of stars shine cold and bright.

The North Wind will blow, with a scent of snow,
Under a steel-gray sky, then the snow will fall,
Down below, and up on high, and
All the birds will fly, for warmer climes.

And making rhymes, before the fire,
You will find me here, in Winter’s grasp, as
Autumn makes its last gasp, and the last
Brown leaf flies past the windowpane.

– Rod Brock, 2006

Old Man Winter

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