Christmas Poems: Christmas In India - Poem by Rudyard Kipling

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Christmas In India - Poem by Rudyard Kipling

Dim dawn behind the tamerisks -- the sky is saffron-yellow --
As the women in the village grind the corn,
And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow
That the Day, the staring Easter Day is born.
Oh the white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway!
Oh the clammy fog that hovers
And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry --
What part have India's exiles in their mirth?

Full day begind the tamarisks -- the sky is blue and staring --
As the cattle crawl afield beneath the yoke,
And they bear One o'er the field-path, who is past all hope or caring,
To the ghat below the curling wreaths of smoke.
Call on Rama, going slowly, as ye bear a brother lowly --
Call on Rama -- he may hear, perhaps, your voice!
With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars,
And to-day we bid "good Christian men rejoice!"

High noon behind the tamarisks -- the sun is hot above us --
As at Home the Christmas Day is breaking wan.
They will drink our healths at dinner -- those who tell us how they love us,
And forget us till another year be gone!
Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
Youth was cheap -- wherefore we sold it.
Gold was good -- we hoped to hold it,
And to-day we know the fulness of our gain.

Grey dusk behind the tamarisks -- the parrots fly together --
As the sun is sinking slowly over Home;
And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether.
That drags us back how'er so far we roam.
Hard her service, poor her payment -- she is ancient, tattered raiment --
India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind.
If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter,
The door is hut -- we may not look behind.

Black night behind the tamarisks -- the owls begin their chorus --
As the conches from the temple scream and bray.
With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
Let us honor, O my brother, Christmas Day!
Call a truce, then, to our labors -- let us feast with friends and neighbors,
And be merry as the custom of our caste;
For if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after,
We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.


Comments about Christmas In India by Rudyard Kipling

  • Rookie crips (12/24/2018 10:24:00 AM)

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    (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Gold Star - 31,486 Points Deepak Kumar Pattanayak (12/29/2017 2:04:00 AM)

    Kipling's one of best works in which glistened the most brilliant of pearls...........outstanding piece by outstanding poet........thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Rookie Triyasha das (12/13/2017 1:04:00 PM)

    His poems are awesome (Report) Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Rookie ding ding ding ding (11/29/2017 8:21:00 AM)

    The Mundian to bach ke Rahi,
    with the Hurle, hurle, hurle murd Bilar,
    The Mundian to bach ke Rahi
    with the Hurle, Hurle, Hurle murd Bilar,
    The Mundian to bach keee Rahiiiiiiiiii-ahhh!

    (Hua!)
    (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 67,285 Points Douglas Scotney (12/26/2015 11:49:00 PM)

    the odd Oh and O is crazy, but 7 spell 'lazy'. (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Gold Star - 25,175 Points Francie Lynch (12/26/2015 7:02:00 PM)

    He was racist, prejudiced and biggoted, and one sees it in all his works. He was in favor of Irish genocide. (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    11 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 25,175 Points Francie Lynch (12/26/2015 7:00:00 PM)

    Reminds me of Charlie Brown's mother: Wah...wah...wah.. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Gold Star - 87,814 Points Terry Craddock (12/26/2015 3:58:00 PM)

    Kipling has a wonderful power focus to perceive India in a moment and ask contrast questions

    'Dim dawn behind the tamerisks - the sky is saffron-yellow -
    As the women in the village grind the corn,
    And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow
    That the Day, the staring Easter Day is born.
    Oh the white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway!
    Oh the clammy fog that hovers
    And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry -
    What part have India's exiles in their mirth? '

    These wonderful lines delight with 'the sky is saffron-yellow', depict reality with 'the women in the village grind the corn', then contrast 'the Day, the staring Easter Day is born' not with salvation of the world but with 'white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway! Oh the clammy fog that hovers'; which changes tempo with 'at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry - ' before displacing the expats with 'What part have India's exiles in their mirth? '.

    It seems the exiles are betrayed as masters enslaving the Indians doing all the work continued from village women grinding corn to

    'Call on Rama - he may hear, perhaps, your voice!
    With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars,
    And to-day we bid good Christian men rejoice!

    Good Christian men are rejoicing but not living Christian lives except for a toast as

    'They will drink our healths at dinner - those who tell us how they love us,
    And forget us till another year be gone!
    Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
    Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
    Youth was cheap - wherefore we sold it.'

    It seems while the masters party on Christmas day Indians are still in the fields toiling under a hot sun doing back breaking work. Does Kipling define the lot of the Indian workers? The next stanza is a lament for Indian

    'As the sun is sinking slowly over Home;
    And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether.
    That drags us back how'er so far we roam.
    Hard her service, poor her payment - she is ancient, tattered raiment -
    India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind.
    If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter, '

    Kipling has written not a descriptive poem about India, but a comment on the British Empire in India, with the final stanza defining a difference between the British masters, who enter not into disapproved Indian shrines culture customs food in this time period, with the attitude of caste Indians who honour Christmas Day

    'With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
    Let us honor, O my brother, Christmas Day!
    Call a truce, then, to our labors - let us feast with friends and neighbors,
    And be merry as the custom of our caste;
    For if faint and forced the laughter, and if sadness follow after,
    We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.'

    India is soaked in time glory suffering, but above all an attitude and ability to endure, to survive wait to attain a better life future for her children and generations to come. Kipling has perceived when we honour life nature all people, we only then truly attain an walk in Christian ideals; he indicates within this poem that except for the word Christian, many native Indians have already attained aspired to Christian lives in works and deeds.

    Kipling has an exceptional touch and insight, and is worth not skim reading, but reading in depth, by all who love India in the romantic past and possibilities present.10+++
    (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 188,866 Points Kim Barney (12/26/2015 10:46:00 AM)

    Kipling was born in India, and countless children (and adults) have enjoyed his stories, such as The Jungle Book. I enjoyed reading this descriptive poem about India.
    I especially liked the cynical lines:

    They will drink our healths at dinner - those who tell us how they love us,
    And forget us till another year be gone!
    (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Gold Star - 17,454 Points Veeraiyah Subbulakshmi (12/26/2015 3:21:00 AM)

    after hundreds of years we are the same and have never changed our way of life, as our country side is terrible neglected, but

    the conches from the temple scream and bray.
    With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us', is the slap on our faces..we have survived all these attacks and will survive forever,
    (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
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Read all 13 comments »
Christmas Poems
  1. 1. A Child's Christmas In Wales
    Dylan Thomas
  2. 2. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. 3. Christmas Eve
    Anne Sexton
  4. 4. Christmas Bells
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  5. 5. Remembrance Of Christmas Past
    Judith Viorst
  6. 6. A Christmas Ghost Story.
    Thomas Hardy
  7. 7. Christmas Carol
    Sara Teasdale
  8. 8. A Family Christmas
    Ernestine Northover
  9. 9. Jest 'Fore Christmas
    Eugene Field
  10. 10. Christmas Party At The South Danbury Chu..
    Donald Hall
  11. 11. Christmas
    John Clare
  12. 12. Christmas - A Little Friend's Poem - Wri..
    Ernestine Northover
  13. 13. A Christmas Tree! A Christmas Tree!
    David Keig
  14. 14. Christmas In India
    Rudyard Kipling
  15. 15. A Christmas Carol
    William Topaz McGonagall
  16. 16. Christmas Fancies
    Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  17. 17. What Reminds You Of Christmas?
    Ernestine Northover
  18. 18. Our Christmas Tree
    Ernestine Northover
  19. 19. Lines For A Christmas Card
    Hilaire Belloc
  20. 20. Christmas - Senryus
    Ernestine Northover
  21. 21. Having Lost My Sons, I Confront The Wrec..
    James Arlington Wright
  22. 22. Sam's Christmas Pudding
    Marriott Edgar
  23. 23. From The Short Story A Christmas Dream, ..
    Louisa May Alcott
  24. 24. Music On Christmas Morning
    Anne Brontë
  25. 25. Christmas Spirit
    Paul Moosberg
  26. 26. This Section Is A Christmas Tree
    Vachel Lindsay
  27. 27. A Christmas Carol, Sung To The King In T..
    Robert Herrick
  28. 28. Christmas Is Really For The Children
    Steve Turner
  29. 29. A Tale Of Christmas Eve
    William Topaz McGonagall
  30. 30. Christmas Holidays
    Thomas Hood
  31. 31. Christmas At Mel’s
    C.J. Heck
  32. 32. The Christmas Night
    Lucy Maud Montgomery
  33. 33. A Hymn For Christmas Day
    Thomas Chatterton
  34. 34. Christmas At The Orphanage
    Bill Knott
  35. 35. A Christmas Carol
    George Wither
  36. 36. A Christmas Wish
    David Keig
  37. 37. Christmas Spirit
    Tess Gurney
  38. 38. Baby's First Christmas (Children)
    C.J. Heck
  39. 39. The Cast Of Christmas Reassembles For Ea..
    Steve Turner
  40. 40. Christmas Treasures
    Eugene Field
  41. 41. Christmas
    Henry Timrod
  42. 42. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Christmas Card(Being An ..
    Dónall Dempsey
  43. 43. The House Of Christmas
    Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  44. 44. Modern Love Xxiii: 'Tis Christmas Weather
    George Meredith
  45. 45. A White Christmas
    Carla Jean Laglia Esely
  46. 46. The Greatest Birthday (Christmas Chris..
    Udiah (witness to Yah)
  47. 47. The Christmas-Box
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  48. 48. Christmas
    Julia Ann Moore
  49. 49. (728) Christmas Joy
    Melvina Germain
  50. 50. Christmas Day
    John Keble

Christmas Poems

  1. Remembrance Of Christmas Past

    They let the children out of school too early. I left the Christmas shopping till too late. Each day we had a holiday excursion, Which gave us the entire week to wait in line for Movies by Disney, Gift-wrapping by Lord & Taylor, And everyone's restrooms. On Christmas Eve we started to assemble The easy-to-assemble telescope And fire truck with forty-seven pieces. By midnight it was plain there was no hope without An astronomer, A mechanical engineer, And two psychiatrists. We rose at dawn to three boys singing Rudolph. We listened numbly to their shouts of glee. The kitten threw up tinsel on the carpet. The fire truck collided with the tree, requiring One rug shampoo, Several Band-aids, And Scotch before breakfast. I bought my husband shirts - wrong size, wrong colors, And ties he said he couldn't be caught dead in. I'd hinted Saint Laurent or something furry. He bought me flannel gowns to go to bed in, also A Teflon frying pan, A plaid valise, And The Weight Watchers Cook Book. The turkey was still frozen at eleven. At noon my eldest boy spilled Elmer's glue. At five I had a swell Excedrin headache, The kind that lasts till January two...but Merry Christmas And Happy New Year, I think.

  2. A Child's Christmas In Wales

    One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen. It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared. We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder. "Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong. And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room. Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper. "Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong. "There won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas." There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting. "Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of the house to the telephone box. "Let's call the police as well," Jim said. "And the ambulance." "And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires." But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?" Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea." "But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards." "Were there postmen then, too?" "With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells." "You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?" "I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them." "I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells." "There were church bells, too." "Inside them?" "No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence." "Get back to the postmen" "They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ...." "Ours has got a black knocker...." "And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out." "And then the presents?" "And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs. "He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone." "Get back to the Presents." "There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why." "Go on the Useless Presents." "Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons." "Were there Uncles like in our house?" "There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms' length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers." Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself. I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled windows, the whole length of the white echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar. Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements. "I bet people will think there's been hippos." "What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?" "I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the ear and he'd wag his tail." "What would you do if you saw two hippos?" Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel's house. "Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box." "Let's write things in the snow." "Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn." Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?" The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior." We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year. Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. "What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?" "No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three." One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen ... And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town. "Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said. "Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading. "Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that. Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

  3. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

    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. I thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along th'unbroken song 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.' 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.' Till, ringing, singing 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.

  4. Christmas Bells

    "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, singing 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 accursed 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!" 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!"

  5. Christmas Eve

    Oh sharp diamond, my mother! I could not count the cost of all your faces, your moods- that present that I lost. Sweet girl, my deathbed, my jewel-fingered lady, your portrait flickered all night by the bulbs of the tree. Your face as calm as the moon over a mannered sea, presided at the family reunion, the twelve grandchildren you used to wear on your wrist, a three-months-old baby, a fat check you never wrote, the red-haired toddler who danced the twist, your aging daughters, each one a wife, each one talking to the family cook, each one avoiding your portrait, each one aping your life. Later, after the party, after the house went to bed, I sat up drinking the Christmas brandy, watching your picture, letting the tree move in and out of focus. The bulbs vibrated. They were a halo over your forehead. Then they were a beehive, blue, yellow, green, red; each with its own juice, each hot and alive stinging your face. But you did not move. I continued to watch, forcing myself, waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five. I wanted your eyes, like the shadows of two small birds, to change. But they did not age. The smile that gathered me in, all wit, all charm, was invincible. Hour after hour I looked at your face but I could not pull the roots out of it. Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck, your badly painted flesh-pink skin. You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were. Then I thought of your body as one thinks of murder- Then I said Mary- Mary, Mary, forgive me and then I touched a present for the child, the last I bred before your death; and then I touched my breast and then I touched the floor and then my breast again as if, somehow, it were one of yours.

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