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Poem by Henry Timrod
How grace this hallowed day? Shall happy bells, from yonder ancient spire, Send their glad greetings to each Christmas fire Round which the children play? Alas! for many a moon, That tongueless tower hath cleaved the Sabbath air, Mute as an obelisk of ice, aglare Beneath an Arctic noon. Shame to the foes that drown Our psalms of worship with their impious drum, The sweetest chimes in all the land lie dumb In some far rustic town. There, let us think, they keep, Of the dead Yules which here beside the sea They've ushered in with old-world, English glee, Some echoes in their sleep. How shall we grace the day? With feast, and song, and dance, and antique sports, And shout of happy children in the courts, And tales of ghost and fay? Is there indeed a door, Where the old pastimes, with their lawful noise, And all the merry round of Christmas joys, Could enter as of yore? Would not some pallid face Look in upon the banquet, calling up Dread shapes of battles in the wassail cup, And trouble all the place? How could we bear the mirth, While some loved reveler of a year ago Keeps his mute Christmas now beneath the snow, In cold Virginian earth? How shall we grace the day? Ah! let the thought that on this holy morn The Prince of Peace—the Prince of Peace was born, Employ us, while we pray! Pray for the peace which long Hath left this tortured land, and haply now Holds its white court on some far mountain's brow, There hardly safe from wrong! Let every sacred fane Call its sad votaries to the shrine of God, And, with the cloister and the tented sod, Join in one solemn strain! With pomp of Roman form, With the grave ritual brought from England's shore, And with the simple faith which asks no more Than that the heart be warm! He, who, till time shall cease, Will watch that earth, where once, not all in vain, He died to give us peace, may not disdain A prayer whose theme is—peace. Perhaps ere yet the Spring Hath died into the Summer, over all The land, the peace of His vast love shall fall, Like some protecting wing. Oh, ponder what it means! Oh, turn the rapturous thought in every way! Oh, give the vision and the fancy play, And shape the coming scenes! Peace in the quiet dales, Made rankly fertile by the blood of men, Peace in the woodland, and the lonely glen, Peace in the peopled vales! Peace in the crowded town, Peace in a thousand fields of waving grain, Peace in the highway and the flowery lane, Peace on the wind-swept down! Peace on the farthest seas, Peace in our sheltered bays and ample streams, Peace wheresoe'er our starry garland gleams, And peace in every breeze! Peace on the whirring marts, Peace where the scholar thinks, the hunter roams, Peace, God of Peace! peace, peace, in all our homes, And peace in all our hearts!
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