Bohemian legends and other poems/Christmas Eve

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For works with similar titles, see Christmas Eve.

CHRISTMAS EVE.

PART FIRST.

Darkness like the grave; on the window frost,
But in the room beside the stove is warm.
By the fire’s blaze granny sits and nods,
While the maidens spin the soft flax by storm.

Spin around, whirl around, spinning-wheel mine,
Advent is nearing, and rest shall be thine,
For soon, for oh soon will be Christmas time.

Oh, diligent maidens I love to see
Spinning their flax in the long winter night,
For pay they’ll receive when spinning is done;
And a linen pile is a gladsome sight.

And youths will come for a diligent girl,
They will say, “Oh, maiden, beloved, be mine!
I will take thee home as my cherished wife,
And I will be wholly, wholly thine.

I’ll be thy husband, and thou’lt be my wife,
Give me thy hand, that I know it is so!”
Then the maiden will cut her linen fine,
And gladly her wedding shirts she will sew.

Spin around, whirl around, spinning wheel mine,
Advent is nearing and rest will be thine;
For soon, for oh soon will be Christmas time.

 

PART SECOND.

 

Ho! thou Christmas evening,
Filled with mystic awe.
Good perhaps thou bringest,
Better then we saw.

For the farmer fodder,
That his cows grow sleek.
For the fowls some barley,
Peas then let them seek.

For the fruit trees compost,
Made of pounded bones.
For the one who fasteth,
Lights from other zones.

I, an honest maiden,
With my heart still free,
Fain would see the lover
That will come for me.

Far behind the forest,
Near the little bridge,
Stands a willow ancient,
Snow on tree and ridge.

Willow stooping downward,
Leaning on the ice,
Drooping where the blue sea
Now has turned to ice.

Here they say that maidens,
In the moonlight clear,
May behold their lover,
If they have no fear.

I, who fear no evil,
Will break through the ice.
With an axe I’ll cut it,
Gaze down in the ice.

Deep, deep down they tell me,
In the frozen sea,
I shall see my future,
If I do not flee.

 

PART THIRD.

 

Mary and Hannah, two beautiful girls,
That bloom like the roses in spring.
And which the fairest, oh nobody knows,
They are flowers that bloom in spring.

Should she speak to a youth, gentle and soft,
In fire he’d spring for her sake.
Should the other smile, forgotten the first,
Forgotten the first for her sake.

Midnight is near, and the night it is dark;
But the wee stars are shining bright.
They shine round the moon, like sheep round the crook
Of shepherd that watches by night.

Midnight is near, ’tis the mystical night,
The night when our Saviour was born.
On the new-fallen snow footsteps are seen,
They lead to the willow forlorn.

Down on her knees the maiden is gazing
The other one stands by her side.
Hannah, dear Hannah, oh gold heart, now say,
What is it the future can hide?”

I see a cottage—but all in a mist—
Like the one Veník[1] is building.
The mist is clearing oh, now I see clear,
A door, and some one near standing.

His coat is dark green yes, green is his coat,
His hat on one side—now I see;
The flowers I gave him, stuck on one side,
My God! ’tis my Veník I see.”

She jumped to her feet, her heart beating wild,
The other one knelt on the ice.
God give, Mary dear, you also behold,
Your happiness down in the ice.”

Oh, I see, I see, but all is gloomy,
Shrouded in some darkness dreary,
Faint red lights, from out the darkness,
Light the church’s altar dreary.

Something dark amidst white dresses fluttering—
Now the mist is growing clear, I see—
[2]Bridesmaids, but, oh God, they follow something;
Cross and coffin all I see!”

 

PART FOURTH.

 

Summer winds are softly blowing,
On the scented new-mown hay.
Fields and garden full of flowers,
Promising a harvest day.
From the church one heard the singing,
And the wedding music ringing,
As they led the happy pair.

Stately bridegroom, tall and stalwart,
Walking midst the wedding guests.
Green the coat upon his shoulders,
And his hat on one side rests.
As she saw him in the midnight,
Now she sees him in the daylight,
As he leads her to his home.

Summer’s past. Cold winds are blowing
O’er the dreary harvest fields.
Bells are tolling as they carry
One who now no longer feels.

Bridesmaids with wax candles follow,
Weeping—music sad and hollow,
Sung in accents cold and clear,
“Misserere, sleep in peace!”

Who with myrtle wreath is sleeping,
In the coffin’s narrow space?”
Dead, oh dead, and past all weeping—
"Fairest lily of her race,
Blooming like a cherished flower,
Till cut in an evil hour,
"Poor, poor, beautiful Mary!

 

PART FIFTH.

 

Terrible cold! on the window is frost,
But in the room beside the stove, is warm.
By the fire’s blaze granny sits and nods,
And again the maidens spin through the storm.

Spin around, whirl around, spinning wheel mine,
Advent is nearing, and rest will be thine.
For soon, for oh soon will be Christmas time.

Ah, thou Christmas evening,
Filled with mystic awe,
When I think upon thee,
My heart beats with awe.

We were sitting spinning,
As we sit to-day,
But a year has rolled by—
Two have gone away.

One is sitting sewing,
Baby shirts I ween.
Three months Mary sleepest,
In the graveyard green.

We were sitting spinning,
As we sit to-day.
Ere the year be finished,
Will we meet, I say?

Spin around, whirl around, spinning wheel mine,
Man’s life is a dream, and a trying time,
And life is a puzzle hard to divine.

Oh, better to live hoping,
And our future not to see,
Than to know what will befall,
When we cannot, cannot flee.

  1. Veník (Václav) Wenzel.
  2. In Bohemia when a young girl or lad dies, they are followed to their grave by bridesmaids or grooms; the richer the dead the larger the number; the girls wear wreaths of myrtle and are dressed in white.