Katharine Lee Bates

(1859-1929 / United States)

To Heavy Hearts - Poem by Katharine Lee Bates

HEAVY hearts, your jubilee
Droops about the Christmas Tree.
Sudden sighs cut off the laughter,
For a haunting pain comes after
All your gallant glee,
— Pain for your soldiers far away to-night,
(O cloud that darkens on the Christmas star!)
Sons, husbands, those who wreathed your world with light,
Far, far, so far.
Be comforted! They never were so near.
In life's deep center of self-sacrifice
You meet with vision clear.
There in love's purest paradise
The touch of soul on soul is close and dear.
Not to-night shall soft cheeks glow
Where the Druid mistletoe
Weaves its charm, while hollies twinkle;
For the lads in some grim wrinkle
Of the earth crouch low.
Hard is their Christmas in the aching trench,
Or in the listening darkness mounting guard,
Haggard with cold and sick with creeping stench,
— Hard, hard, so hard.
Be comforted! That hardness is their pride.
Salute the strength that can endure the stress
Of such a Christmastide.
Our earth made beautiful shall bless
Their stern young manhood nobly testified.
Silver chimes are on the air,
Sweet and blithe—too blithe to bear;
And what singing hearth rejoices,
Missing the belovèd voices
That were merriest there?
The booming cannon are their Christmas bells;
(O Holy Child, how many a homeless waif!)
Their carols are the hiss and crash of shells.
God keep them safe!
Be comforted! For safe they are within
His quiet hand, your soldiers who fulfil
In steadfast discipline,
Like those calm stars, His patient will
That is the peace beneath all battle-din.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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