Alfred Austin (30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)
A Christmas Carol
Hark! In the air, around, above,
The Angelic Music soars and swells,
And, in the Garden that I love,
I hear the sound of Christmas Bells.
From hamlet hollow, village height,
The silvery Message seems to start,
And, far away, its notes to-night
Are surging through the city's heart.
Assurance clear to those who fret
O'er vanished Faith and feelings fled,
That not in English homes is yet
Tradition dumb, or Reverence dead:
Nor, when anew from town-girt tower
Or fen-swept spire the Yule-bells peal,
Are those who watch o'er England's power
Too wise to pray, too proud to kneel.
Now onward floats the sacred tale,
Past leafless woodlands, freezing rills;
It wakes from sleep the silent vale,
It skims the mere, it scales the hills;
And, rippling on up rings of space,
Sounds faint and fainter as more high,
Till mortal ear no more may trace
The music homeward to the sky.
To courtly roof and rustic cot
Old comrades wend from far and wide:
Now is the ancient feud forgot,
The growing grudge is laid aside.
Bright on the board the gifts are spread,
The flagons gleam, the trenchers smoke;
The boar's is now the laurelled head,
Now is the Feast of simple folk.
The agëd tell of ancient cheer,
And boast 'twas merrier then than now;
The children shout `A glad New Year!'
And kiss beneath the berried bough.
But, in the pauses of their mirth,
The Heavenly Hymn is carolled still:
`Glory to God on high, on Earth
Peace, and to all mankind good-will.'
Peace and good-will 'twixt rich and poor!
Good-will and peace 'twixt class and class!
Let old with new, let Prince with boor,
Send round the bowl, and drain the glass!
That still behind the steely sea,
That guards our greatness like a sword,
The free-born children of the free
May own one law, one land, one lord;
And never in our midst may sound
Discordant voice or threat morose,
But every Year that circles round
May find and bind us yet more close.
But not alone for those who still
Within the Mother-Land abide,
We deck the porch, we dress the sill,
And fling the portals open wide.
But unto all of British blood,-
Whether they cling to Egbert's Throne,
Or, far beyond the Western flood,
Have reared a Sceptre of their own,
And, half-regretful, yearn to win
Their way back home, and fondly claim
The rightful share of kith and kin
In Alfred's glory, Shakespeare's fame,-
We pile the logs, we troll the stave,
We waft the tidings wide and far,
And speed the wish, on wind and wave,
To Southern Cross and Northern Star.
Yes! Peace on earth, Atlantic strand!
Peace and good-will, Pacific shore!
Across the waters stretch your hand,
And be our brothers more and more!
Blood of our blood, in every clime!
Race of our race, by every sea!
To you we sing the Christmas rhyme,
For you we light the Christmas-tree.
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