In holly hedges starving birds
Silently mourn the setting year;
Upright like silver-plated swords
The flags stand in the frozen mere.
The mistletoe we still adore
Upon the twisted hawthorn grows:
In antique gardens hellebore
Puts forth its blushing Christmas rose.
Shrivell’d and purple, cheek by jowl,
The hips and haws hang drearily;
Roll’d in a ball the sulky owl
Creeps far into his hollow tree.
In abbeys and cathedrals dim
The birth of Christ is acted o’er;
The kings of Cologne worship him,
Balthazar, Jasper, Melchior.
The shepherds in the field at night
Beheld an angel glory-clad.
And shrank away with sore afright.
“Be not afraid,” the angel bade.
“I bring good news to king and clown,
To you here crouching on the sward;
For there is born in David’s town
A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
“Behold the babe is swathed, and laid
Within a manger.” Straight there stood
Beside the angel all arrayed
A heavenly multitude.
“Glory to God,” they sang; “and peace,
Good pleasure among men.”
The wondrous message of release!
Glory to God again!
Hush! Hark! the waits, far up the street!
A distant, ghostly charm unfolds,
Of magic music wild and sweet,
Anemones and clarigolds.