Harlequin

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Harlequin  (1902) 
by Guy Wetmore Carryl
This poem was published in the posthumous anthology The Garden of Years and Other Poems (1904).

The world lay brown and barren at the closing of the year,
Where the rushes shook and shuddered on the borders of the mere,
And the troubled tide ran shoreward, where the estuaries twined
Through the wide and empty marsh toward the sullen hills behind:
And the smoke-engirdled city sulked beneath the leaden skies,
With the rain-tears slowly sliding from her million window eyes,
And the fog-ghost limped and lingered past the buildings clad in grime,
Till the Frost King gave the signal for the Christmas pantomime!

Then we heard the winds of winter on their brazen trumpets blow
The summons for the ballet of the nimble-footed snow,
And the flakes, all silver-spangled, through the mazy measures wound,
Till each finished out his figure, and took station on the ground.
And the drifts, in shining armor, and with gem-encrusted shields,
Spread their wide-deployed battalions on the drill-ground of the fields,
Till the hillside shone and shimmered with the armies of the rime,
As the Frost King gave the signal for the Christmas pantomime !

He spread a crystal carpet on the rush-encircled pond,
And looped about with ermine all the hemlock-trees beyond:
He strung his gleaming icicles along the scowling eaves,
And decked the barren branches of the oak with snowy leaves,
And, when the world was silver-girt with garland and festoon,
He drew the cloudy curtain that had lain across the moon,
And his wand awoke the wonders of his dazzling distant clime,
When the Frost King gave the signal for the Christmas pantomime!

Then around the benches, crowded with the audience of earth,
Ran the sound of hands applauding, and of little people’s mirth,
And the air was full of savors such as only Christmas knows,
When the ruddy cottage windows cast their roses on the snows:
And the Fire-God cracked the drift-wood ’twixt his fingers and his thumbs,
And the merry pop-corn answered like the roll of little drums,
While the snow-clad belfries wakened, and the midnight heard their chime,
As the Frost King gave the signal for the Christmas pantomime!

With blaze of starry splendor, and with brilliance of the moon,
With fir-trees dressed grotesquely, like the slippered Pantaloon,
With snowflakes light as fairies, and with slender ivy vines
In their spangled winter-dresses, like a host of Columbines; —
With sheen of silver scenery, and sleigh-bells’ merry din,
The whole world laughed and capered ’neath the wand of Harlequin!
With the cap and bells of Folly he invested Father Time,
When the Frost King gave the signal for the Christmas pantomime !

Swampscott, 1902.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.