Dark is the hour, long the night;
Hoarfrost sheds a shimmering light;
The wind in the naked woodland cries
A harp like music; the willow sighs.
But a marvelous quiet dwells in heaven—
Sirius, Markab, the faithful Seven—
For the Old Year’s sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

No glint of dawn; but Chanticlere
Is crowing of Christmas, bugle clear.
In waxen hive, close-wintering,
Bees a slumbrous orison sing;
Roused from their lair in dales of the snow,
Light-foot deer in procession go;
Cattle and sheep in byre and pen
Kneel in the darkness, unseen of men:
For the Old Year’s sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

Now houses of humans with jargonings ring;
Hautboy and serpent and flute and string,
Voices in gruff-shrill carolling—
Men and boys hunched up in the cold.
Tinkles the ice on the frozen mould.

Hesper is shining–rime on thatch;
Stag-borne Nicholas comes—unlatch!
Children stir in their dream and then
Drowsily sigh and turn over again.
Airs of the morn in the orchard flow;
Lo, in the apple boughs, mistletoe!
For the Old Year’s sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

Master and Man, the East burns red;
Drowse no longer in sluggard bed;
Garland the Yule log; scatter the wheat—
Feast for the starving birds to eat.
Mistress and maid, wax warm you shall—
Boar in oven, burned wine, spiced ale,
There’s quiring in heaven; and Gabriel
Wings from the zenith his news to tell;
Shepherd and king fare forth again—
Peace on earth, goodwill to men—
For, loving and lovely, in manger laid,
Dreams o’er her Babe the Virgin Maid.
Kindle then candles for your soul;
Shake off the net life’s follies bring;
Ev’n of the innocent death takes toll;
There is an end to wandering.
But see, in cold clod the snowdrop blows;
Spring’s inexhaustible fountain flows;
Love bides in earth till time is done;
The Old Year’s sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

Walter De La Mare