Holly Tree by Paul H. Hayne
("Hie on the holly tree!"—Old Ballad.)
danced and wavered
In elvish, twinkling glee
On the leaves and crimson berries
Of the great green Christmas-Tree;
And the children who gathered round it
Beheld, with marvelling eyes,
Pendant from trunk and branches
How many a precious prize,
From the shimmer of gold and silver
Through a purse's cunning net,
To the coils of a rippling necklace
That quivered with beads of jet!
But chiefly they gazed in wonder
Where flickered strangely through
The topmost leaves of the holly,
The sheen of a silken shoe!
And the eldest spake to her father:
"I have seen—yes, year by year,
On the crown of our Christmas hollies,
That small shoe glittering clear;
"But you never have told who owned it,
Nor why, so loftily set,
It shines though the fadeless verdure—
You never have told us yet!"
then that the museful father
In slow sad accents said,
While the firelight hovered eerily
About his downcast head:
"My children.... you had a sister;
(It was long, long, long ago,)
She came like an Eden rosebud
'Mid the dreariest winter snow,
"And for four sweet seasons blossomed
To cheer our hearts and hearth,
When the song of the Bethlehem angels
Lured her away from earth—
"A little before she left us,
We had deftly raised to view,
On the topmost branch of the holly,
Yon glimmering, tiny shoe;
"For again 'twas the time of Christmas,
As she lay with laboring breath;
But.... our minds were blinded strangely,
And we did not dream of death.
"We knew that no toy would please her
Like a shoe, so fair and neat,
To fold, with its soft caressing,
Her delicate, sylph-like feet!
"Truly, a smile like a sunbeam
Brightened her eyes of blue,
And once.. twice.. thrice.. she tested
The charm of her fairy shoe!
"Ah! then the bright smile flickered,
Faded, and drooped away,
As faintly, in tones that faltered,
I heard our darling say:
"1 My shoe! papa, please hang it
Once more on the holly bough,
Just where I am sure to see it,
When I wake.... an hour from now!
"But alas! she never wakened!
Close-shut were the eyes of blue
Whose last faint gleam had fondled
The curves of that dainty shoe!
"Ah, children, you understand me—
Your eyes are brimmed with dew,
As they watch on the Christmas holly
The sheen of a silken shoe!"