Ah Julia! ask a Christmas rhyme
Of me who in the golden time
Of careless, hopeful, happy youth
Ne’er strove to decorate the truth
Contented to lay bare my heart
To one dear Friend, who had her part
In all the love and all the care
And every joy that harboured there.
—To her I told in simple prose
Each girlish vision, as it rose
Before an active busy brain
That needed neither spur nor rein,
That still enjoyed the present hour
Yet for the future raised a tower
Of bliss more exquisite and pure
Bliss that (so deemed we) should endure
Maxims of caution, prudent fears
Vexed not the projects of those years
Simplicity our steadfast theme,
No works of Art adorned our scheme.—
A cottage in a verdant dell,
A foaming stream, a crystall Well,
A garden stored with fruit and flowers
And sunny seats and shady bowers,
A file of hives for humming bees
Under a row of stately trees
And, sheltering all this faery ground,
A belt of hills must wrap it round,
Not stern or mountainous, or bare,
Nor lacking herbs to scent the air;
Nor antient trees, nor scattered rocks,
And pastured by the blameless flocks
That print their green tracks to invite
Our wanderings to the topmost height.
Such was the spot I fondly framed
When life was new, and hope untamed:
There with my one dear Friend would dwell,
Nor wish for aught beyond the dell.
Alas! the cottage fled in air,
The streamlet never flowed:
—Yet did those visions pass away
So gently that they seemed to stay,
Though in our riper years we each pursued a different way.
—We parted, sorrowful; by duty led;
My Friend, ere long a happy Wife
Was seen with dignity to tread
The paths of usefulness, in active life;
And such her course through later days;
The same her honour and her praise;
As thou canst witness, thou dear Maid,
One of the Darlings of her care;
Thy Mother was that Friend who still repaid
Frank confidence with unshaken truth:
This was the glory of her youth,
A brighter gem than shines in prince’s diadem.
You ask why in that jocund time
Why did I not in jingling rhyme
Display those pleasant guileless dreams
That furnished still exhaustless themes?
—I reverenced the Poet’s skill,
And might have nursed a mounting Will
To imitate the tender Lays
Of them who sang in Nature’s praise;
But bashfulness, a struggling shame
A fear that elder heads might blame
—Or something worse—a lurking pride
Whispering my playmates would deride
Stifled ambition, checked the aim
If e’er by chance “the numbers came”
—Nay even the mild maternal smile,
That oft-times would repress, beguile
The over-confidence of youth,
Even that dear smile, to own the truth,
Was dreaded by a fond self-love;
“‘Twill glance on me—and to reprove
Or,” (sorest wrong in childhood’s school)
“Will point the sting of ridicule.”
And now, dear Girl, I hear you ask
Is this your lightsome, chearful task?
You tell us tales of forty years,
Of hopes extinct, of childish fears,
Why cast among us thoughts of sadness
When we are seeking mirth and gladness?
Nay, ill those words befit the Maid
Who pleaded for my Christmas rhyme
Mirthful she is; but placid—staid—
Her heart beats to no giddy chime
Though it with Chearfulness keep time
For Chearfulness, a willing guest,
Finds ever in her tranquil breast
A fostering home, a welcome rest.
And well she knows that, casting thought away,
We lose the best part of our day;
That joys of youth remembered when our youth is past
Are joys that to the end of life will last;
And if this poor memorial strain,
Breathed from the depth of years gone by,
Should touch her Mother’s heart with tender pain,
Or call a tear into her loving eye,
She will not check the tear or still the rising sigh.
—The happiest heart is given to sadness;
The saddest heart feels deepest gladness.
Thou dost not ask, thou dost not need
A verse from me; nor wilt thou heed
A greeting masked in laboured rhyme
From one whose heart has still kept time
With every pulse of thine.
||This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.