THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Crusted with silver, gemmed with stars of light,
Topaz and ruby, emerald, sapphire, pearl,
The enchanted tree within a world of white
Uplifts her myriad crystal branches bright
Against the pale blue skies. The keen winds whirl
Her globed jewels on the sheeted snow,
That hard and pure as marble lies below.
Yet even as the radiant fruitage falls,
Touching the solid earth, it melts to air.
Gold glimmering rings and clear, flame—hearted balls,—
These be the magic keys to elfin halls.
The outstretched hands of greed are void and bare,
But elfin hands may clasp, elf eyes may see,
The mystic glories of the wondrous tree.
Lo, as beneath the silver boughs I stood,
And watched the gleaming jewel in their heart,
Blue as a star, the subtle charm held good:
I touched and clasped a dropping diamond dart,
And, rapt from all the snowy world apart,
Alone within the moist, green woods of May,
I wandered ere the middle hour of day.
And over me the magic tree outspread
Her rustling branches like a silken tent;
An azure light the balmy heavens shed;
Rose-white with odorous bloom above my head,
Scarce ‘neath their burden soft the wreathed sprays bent.
Through them went singing birds, and once on high
Surely a blindfold, winged boy-god flew by.
In the cool shade two happy mortals stood
And laughed, because the spring was in their veins,
Coursing like heavenly fire along their blood,
To see the sunbeams pierce the emerald wood,
To hear each other’s voice, to catch the strains
Of sweet bird-carols in the tree-tops high;
And laughed like gods, who are not born to die.
A spirit murmured in mine ear unseen,
“Rub well the dart thou boldest.” I obeyed,
And all the tree was swathed in living green,
Veiled with hot, hazy sunshine, and between
The ripe, dark leaves plump cherries white and red,
Swaying on slender stalks with every breeze,
Glowed like the gold fruits of Hesperides.
Once more I rubbed the talisman. There came
Once more a change: the rusty leaves outshone
With tints of bronze against a sky of flame,
Weird with strange light, the same yet not the same.
But brief the glory, setting with the sun:
A fog-white wraith uprose to haunt the tree,
And shrill winds whistled through it drearily.
From out my hand the mystic arrow fell:
Like dew it vanished, and I was aware
Of winter-tide and death. Ah, was it well,
Ye mocking elves, to weave this subtle spell,
And break it thus, dissolving into air
The fairy fabric of my dream, and show
Life a brief vision melting with the snow?
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