- SHE fell asleep on Christmas Eve.
- Upon her eyes’ most patient calms
The lids were shut; her uplaid arms
- Covered her bosom, I believe.
Our mother, who had leaned all day
- Over the bed from chime to chime,
Then raised herself for the first time,
- And as she sat her down, did pray.
Her little work-table was spread
- With work to finish. For the glare
Made by her candle, she had care
- To work some distance from the bed.
Without, there was a good moon up,
- Which left its shadows far within;
The depth of light that it was in
- Seemed hollow like an altar-cup.
Through the small room, with subtle sound
- Of flame, by vents the fireshine drove
And reddened. In its dim alcove
- The mirror shed a clearness round.
I had been sitting up some nights,
- And my tir’d mind felt weak and blank;
Like a sharp strengthening wine, it drank
- The stillness and the broken lights.
Silence was speaking at my side
- With an exceedingly clear voice:
I knew the calm as of a choice
- Made in God for me, to abide.
I said, “Full knowledge does not grieve:
- This which upon my spirit dwells
Perhaps would have been sorrow else:
- But I am glad 'tis Christmas Eve.”
Twelve struck. That sound, which all the years
- Hear in each hour, crept off; and then
The ruffled silence spread again,
- Like water that a pebble stirs.
Our mother rose from where she sat.
- Her needles, as she laid them down,
Met lightly, and her silken gown
- Settled: no other noise than that.
“Glory unto the Newly Born!”
- So, as said angels, she did say;
Because we were in Christmas-day,
- Though it would still be long till dawn.
She stood a moment with her hands
- Kept in each other, praying much;
A moment that the soul may touch
- But the heart only understands.
Almost unwittingly, my mind
- Repeated her words after her;
Perhaps tho’ my lips did not stir;
- It was scarce thought, or cause assign’d.
Just then in the room over us
- There was a pushing back of chairs,
As some who had sat unawares
- So late, now heard the hour, and rose.
Anxious, with softly stepping haste,
- Our mother went where Margaret lay,
Fearing the sounds o’erhead—should they
- Have broken her long-watched for rest!
She stooped an instant, calm, and turned;
- But suddenly turned back again;
And all her features seemed in pain
- With woe, and her eyes gazed and yearned.
For my part, I but hid my face,
- And held my breath, and spake no word:
There was none spoken; but I heard
- The silence for a little space.
Our mother bowed herself and wept.
- And both my arms fell, and I said:
“God knows I knew that she was dead.”
- And there, all white, my sister slept.
Then kneeling, upon Christmas morn
- A little after twelve o’clock
We said, ere the first quarter struck,
- “Christ’s blessing on the newly born!”