The Christmas of 1888

Low in the east, against a white cold dawn,
The black-lined silhouette of the woods was drawn;
And on a wintry waste
Of frosted streams and hillsides bare and brown,
Through thin cloud-films a pallid ghost looked down,—
The waning moon, half-faced !
In that pale sky and sere, snow-waiting earth,
What sign was there of the immortal birth ?
What herald of the One ?
Lo! swift as thought the heavenly radiance came,
A rose-red splendor swept the sky like flame,
Up rolled the round, bright sun!
And all was changed. From a transfigured world
The moon’s ghost fled, the smoke of home-hearths curled
Up the still air unblown.
In Orient warmth and brightness, did that morn
O’er Nain and Nazareth, when the Christ was born,
Break fairer than our own ?
The morning’s promise noon and eve fulfilled
In warm, soft sky and landscape hazy-hilled
And sunset fair as they :
A sweet reminder of His holiest time,
A summer-miracle in our winter clime,
God gave a perfect day.
The near was blended with the old and far,
And Bethlehem’s hillside and the Magi’s star
Seemed here, as there and then:
Our homestead pine-tree was the Syrian palm,
Our heart’s desire the angels’ midnight psalm,
Peace and good-will to men!
John Greenleaf Whittier.