I know where it lurks and hides,
In the midst of the busy house,
In the midst of the children’s glee,
All clay its shadow bides:
Nobody knows but me.
On a closet-shelf it dwells,
In the darkest corner of all,
Mid rolls of woollen and fur,
And faint, forgotten smells
Of last year’s lavender.
That a ghost has its dwelling there
Nobody else would guess,—
“Only a baby’s shoe,
A curl of golden hair,”
You would say, “a toy or two,—
“A broken doll, whose lips
And cheeks of waxen bloom
Show dents of fingers small,—
Little, fair finger-tips,—
A worn sash,—that is all.”
Little to see or to guess;
But whenever I open the door,
There, faithful to its post,
With its eyes’ sad tenderness,
I see my little ghost.
And I hasten to shut the door,
I shut it tight and fast,
Lest the sweet, sad thing get free,
Lest it flit beside on the floor,
And sadden the day for me,
Lest between me and the sun,
And between me and the heavens,
And the laugh in the children’s eyes,
The shadowy feet should run,
The faint gold curls arise
Like a gleam of moonlight pale,
And all the warmth and the light
Should die from the summer day,
And the laughter turn to wail,
And I should forget to pray.
So I keep the door shut fast,
And my little ghost shut in,
And whenever I cross the hall
I shiver and hurry past;
But I love it best of all.
How did they keep his birthday then,
The little fair Christ, so long ago?
O, many there were to be housed and fed,
And there was no place in the inn, they said,
So into the manger the Christ must go,
To lodge with the cattle and not with men.
The ox and the ass they munched their hay
They munched and they slumbered, wondering not,
And out in the midnight cold and blue
The shepherds slept, and the sheep slept too,
Till the angels’ song and the bright star ray
Guided the wise men to the spot.
But only the wise men knelt and praised,
And only the shepherds came to see,
And the rest of the world cared not at all
For the little Christ in the oxen’s stall;
And we are angry and amazed
That such a dull, hard thing should be!
How do we keep his birthday now?
We ring the bells and we raise the strain,
We hang up garland, everywhere
And bid the tapers, twinkle fair,
And feast and frolic—and then we go
Back to the Mine old lives again.
Are we so better, then, than they
Who failed the new-born Christ to see?
To them a helpless babe,—to us
He shines a Saviour glorious,
Our Lord, our Friend, our All—yet we
Are half asleep this Christmas day.