Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old Christmas / Mary Howitt

Old Christmas

Now he who knows old Christmas,
   He knows a carle of worth;
For he is as good a fellow,
   As any upon the earth.

He comes warm cloaked and coated,
   And buttoned up to the chin,
And soon as he comes a-nigh the door,
   We open and let him in.

We know that he will not fail us,
   So we sweep the hearth up clean;
We set him in the old armed chair,
   And a cushion whereon to lean.

And with sprigs of holly and ivy
   We make the house look gay,
Just out of an old regard to him,
   For it was his ancient way.

We broach the strong ale barrel,
   And bring out wine and meat;
And thus have all things ready,
   Our dear old friend to greet

And soon the time wears round,
   The good old carle we see,
Coming a-near; for a creditor
   Less punctual is than he!

He comes with a cordial voice
   That does one good to hear;
He shakes one heartily by the hand,
   As he hath done many a year.

Aud after the little children
   He asks in a cheerful tone,
Jack, Kate, and little Annie,
   He remembers them every one!

What a fine old fellow he is,
   With his faculties all as clear,
And his heart as warm and light
   As a man in his fortieth year!

What a fine old fellow, in troth!
   Not one of your griping elves,
Who, with plenty of money to spare,
   Think only about themselves!

Not he! for he loveth the children;
   And holiday begs for all;
And comes, with his pockets full of gifts,
   For the great ones and the small!

With a present for every servant –
   For in giving he doth not tire  –
From the red-faced, jovial butler
   To the girl by the kitchen fire.

And he tells us witty old stories,
   And singeth with might and main
And we talk of the old man's visit
   Till the day that he comes again!

Oh, he is a kind old fellow,
   And though that beef be dear,
He giveth the parish paupers
   A good dinner once a year!

And all the workhouse children,
   He sets them down in a row,
And giveth them rare plum-pudding,
   And two pence a piece also.

Oh, could you have seen those paupers,
   Have heard those children young,
You would wish with them that Christmas
   Came oft and tarried long!

He must be a rich old fellow,
   What money he gives away!
There is not a lord in England
   Could equal him any day.

Good luck unto old Christmas,
  And long life, let us sing,
For he doth more good unto the poor
  Than many a crownèd king.

Mary Howitt 
from Hymns and Fireside Verses, 1839

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Mary Howitt biography

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