A shining arrow, swift and keen,
The young and eager morn lets fly,–
A shaft to pierce the pallid dawn,
And part the curtains of the sky!
The frosty casement, glimmering chill,
Across the shadowy room I see,
When, with the first awakening thrill,
A message comes to me.
Without, the cold grey hills stand fast
Before the silver rim of heaven,
Within, the shuddering night is past,
And light and hope are newly given;
I gaze, and lift my soul in prayer,
Awed by the solemn stress of morn,
For lo! the immortal day is here,–
To us a Child is born!
We slept beneath the ban of night,
Whose seal on brow and eyelids lay,
But with the dawn receive our sight
and hail the Christ at break of day!
On yonder height we see her rise,
The morning, passionless and paid;
Our priestess, with the vestal eyes
Behind her twilight veil.
I leave the childish voices mute
Whose Christmas greeting sweeter chime,
And steal below with noiseless foot,
To seek alone the household shrine;
The hearth is cold, the alter bare,
But gifts and tokens piled above
Attest the old-time offering there,–
The sacrifice of love!
A stir, a whisper overhead,
A pattering sound of baby feet;
A burst of stifled laughter, led
By voices ringing sweet:
The wintry twilight slips sway
And leaves my silent homage done;
While forward leaps the exultant day,
Touched by the rising sun!
What eyes the holy vigil kept,
What hand prepared the Christmas cheer,
While still the votive maidens slept,–
The hallowed hour drew near?
Beyond our ken the mystery lies,
The love Divine we dare not say;
Yet hearts by human love made wise
May welcome Christmas Day!