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Thursday, 20 December 2012

“My Christmas Fare a Scanty Meal of Dry and Stone-Like Bread…” Or Another Victorian Christmas Poem


One thing that always strikes me about Victorian Christmas poetry is the downcast and melancholy nature of it. Perhaps it’s just the particular efforts I have in my collection, but its quite rare that I come across happy and jolly Christmas poems, and this is no exception. The vivid imagery, though, is absolutely wonderful, and more than makes up for the gloomy subject. Maybe the Victorian poets liked to temper the festivities of the season by highlighting the predicaments of the less fortunate with their poetry? Who knows? But here is this weeks festive tear-jerker:

The Sempstresses Christmas Song
By Thomas Russell

Here's Christmas, but no holly-boughs on these lone walls are hung,
A gala time - but rind this hearth no carol rhymes are sung;

No merry greeting grateful comes to my neglected ear,
No footfall on the stair to tell of lov'd ones drawing near!

I'll deck my Robin's cage to day afresh with groundsel bloom,
He'll warble his accustom'd note until the shadows loom;
The busy needle while I ply, and gather thread on thread,
My "Christmas fare" a scanty meal of dry and stone-like bread.

The golden days of infancy, when berries red and white
were mingled on our walls at home, I'll dream of them at night;
I'll fancy that these icy limbs are frolicking again,
As then they gambolled, though I know the fancy will be vain.

The holly and the mistletoe, ah! What are they to me?
To see them waste their greenness here, a mockery would be;
Enough to know the freshness of my heart hath passed away,
It needs no forest-gathered things to tell me that today!

I've opened my casement window, that the warbling of my bird 
May mingle with the joyous strains that in the streets are heard;
And the pealing notes of countless chimes come softly stealing in,
As if to woo my darkened thoughts to gladness back again.

The laugh of merry childhood comes mingling with their strain,
Enough! I cannot hear that sound, I'll shut it out again;
It brings the tear-drop in mine eye, retards my feeble hand,
There, Robin, sing to only me thy carol soft and bland.
                          - People's and Howitt's Journal, 1850

This is to be my last post before Christmas day, so may I wish all readers a happy and joyous Christmas day, and here’s hoping Father Christmas brings you all that you desire!
'The Poor Sempstress' by Richard Redgrave, 1843

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