A Belgian Christmas

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

The "happy year" of 1914

An hour from dawn:
The snow sweeps on
As it swept with sleet last night:
The Earth around
Breathes never a sound,
Wrapped in its shroud of white.

A waked cock crows
Under the snows;
Then silence. After while
The sky grows blue,
And a star looks through
With a kind o' bitter smile.

A whining dog;
An axe on a log,
And a muffled voice that calls:
A cow's long low;
Then footsteps slow
Stamping into the stalls.

A bed of straw
Where the wind blows raw
Through cracks of the stable door:
A child's small cry,
A voice nearby,
That says, "One mouth the more."

A different note
In a man's rough throat
As he turns at an entering tread
Satyrs! see!
"My woman she
Was brought last night to bed!"

A cry of"Halt!"
"Ach! ich bin kalt!"
"A spy!""No.""That is clear!
There's a good shake-down
I' the jail in town
For her!" And then, "My orders here."

A shot, sharp-rolled
As the clouds unfold:
A scream; and a cry forlorn...
Clothed red with fire,
Like the Heart's Desire,
Look down the Christmas Morn.

The babe with light
Is haloed bright,
And it is Christmas Day:
A cry of woe;
Then footsteps slow,
And the wild guns, far away.

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