Christmas Bells

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A slumberous sound, a sound that brings The feelings of a dream, As of innumerable wings, As, when a bell no longer swings, Faint the hollow murmur rings O'er meadow, lake, and stream.

And dreams of that which cannot die, Bright visions, came to me, As lapped in thought I used to lie, And gaze into the summer sky, Where the sailing clouds went by, Like ships upon the sea;

Dreams that the soul of youth engage Ere Fancy has been quelled; Old legends of the monkish page, Traditions of the saint and sage, Tales that have the rime of age, And chronicles of Eld.

And, loving still these quaint old themes, Even in the city's throng I feel the freshness of the streams, That, crossed by shades and sunny gleams, Water the green land of dreams, The holy land of song.

Therefore, at Pentecost, which brings The Spring, clothed like a bride, When nestling buds unfold their wings, And bishop's-caps have golden rings, Musing upon many things, I sought the woodlands wide.

The green trees whispered low and mild; It was a sound of joy! They were my playmates when a child, And rocked me in their arms so wild! Still they looked at me and smiled, As if I were a boy;

And ever whispered, mild and low, "Come, be a child once more!" And waved their long arms to and fro, And beckoned solemnly and slow; O, I could not choose but go Into the woodlands hoar,--

Into the blithe and breathing air, Into the solemn wood, Solemn and silent everywhere Nature with folded hands seemed there Kneeling at her evening prayer! Like one in prayer I stood.

Before me rose an avenue Of tall and sombrous pines; Abroad their fan-like branches grew, And, where the sunshine darted through, Spread a vapor soft and blue, In long and sloping lines.

And, falling on my weary brain, Like a fast-falling shower, The dreams of youth came back again, Low lispings of the summer rain, Dropping on the ripened grain, As once upon the flower.

Visions of childhood! Stay, O stay! Ye were so sweet and wild! And distant voices seemed to say, "It cannot be! They pass away! Other themes demand thy lay; Thou art no more a child!

"The land of Song within thee lies, Watered by living springs; The lids of Fancy's sleepless eyes Are gates unto that Paradise, Holy thoughts, like stars, arise, Its clouds are angels' wings.

"Learn, that henceforth thy song shall be, Not mountains capped with snow, Nor forests sounding like the sea, Nor rivers flowing ceaselessly, Where the woodlands bend to see The bending heavens below.

"There is a forest where the din Of iron branches sounds! A mighty river roars between, And whosoever looks therein Sees the heavens all black with sin, Sees not its depths, nor bounds.

"Athwart the swinging branches cast, Soft rays of sunshine pour; Then comes the fearful wintry blast Our hopes, like withered leaves, fail fast; Pallid lips say, 'It is past! We can return no more!,

"Look, then, into thine heart, and write! Yes, into Life's deep stream! All forms of sorrow and delight, All solemn Voices of the Night, That can soothe thee, or affright,-- Be these henceforth thy theme."

HYMN TO THE NIGHT.

[Greek quotation]

I heard the trailing garments of the Night Sweep through her marble halls! I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light From the celestial walls!

I felt her presence, by its spell of might, Stoop o'er me from above; The calm, majestic presence of the Night, As of the one I love.

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight, The manifold, soft chimes, That fill the haunted chambers of the Night Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air My spirit drank repose; The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,-- From those deep cisterns flows.

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear What man has borne before! Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care, And they complain no more.

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