“Remember your time honor’d laws,“Santa Claus” by Eliza R. Snow, Juvenile Instructor, December 15, 1868
Kind master of the merry glee:
Prepare your gifts, good Santa Claus,
And hang them on the Christmas tree.
Go all the rounds of baby-hood.
And bless and cheer the hearts of all
The ‘little folks,’ and please be good
To those who’re not so very small.”
Overwhelming the spirit of Christmas, adulthood constantly pulls me back toward tedious obligations. Still, I try to grab a dose of holiday mirth each day of December. Last weekend I devoted some time to browsing through Christmas poetry. Searching my eBook copy of Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry, I found “Santa Clause”.
Above, I’ve shared the first and last stanza of her invocation to the yuletide legend. As verse goes, this poem has nothing on the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. But I sure like the turn in the last line, where Snow suddenly skips to begging a blessing for the older generation. It’s an interesting moment one can read either as charming or self-serving.
“He proved to be the city come again“Christmas Trees” by Robert Frost
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;
Frost’s poem dramatizes negotiations between a city merchant and a country landowner over a large sum of trees. If you goof like I did initially, you’ll read through the poem just once and draw a simplistic conclusion: city living corrupt, country living pure. The poem grows richer on a second reading, and richer still on a third. Dichotomy dissolves. Christmas has this power.
Frost shows us a man coming to understand the underlying value of a thing—a value money will never match. The man deliberates within himself, trying to make a sensible decision, all the while wishing he could send the value of the trees to the city, if not the trees themselves. Thoughtful verse if you’re a thoughtful reader.
“What crowding thoughts around me wake,“To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris” by Helen Maria Williams
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last!…”
Ms. Williams crafts poignant verse, with a holiday dessert triggering the nostalgia so many of us feel at Christmas time. For her, the active ingredient is cake from her homeland. I might have crafted this piece around cherry cordials. I could always count on my grandmother making them at Christmas. She has since passed, and I’ve never learned to make them myself. Still, I grab a box to share when I visit my folks during the holidays.
No link for Ms. Snow’s poem, but you can read the other two poems here and here. The featured image comes from one of my favorite sources, the New York Public Library. Lot’s of fun old Christmas imagery to be found there.
Thanks also to the Poetry Foundation, for generously making available a trove of Christmas poetry by great poets. Finally, I’ll point you to a piece I wrote last Christmas:
Merry Christmas, readers!