Christmas in the Heart

Paul Laurence Dunbar - 1872-1906
The snow lies deep upon the ground,
And winter's brightness all around
Decks bravely out the forest sere,
With jewels of the brave old year.
The coasting crowd upon the hill
With some new spirit seems to thrill;
And all the temple bells achime.
Ring out the glee of Christmas time.

In happy homes the brown oak-bough
Vies with the red-gemmed holly now;
And here and there, like pearls, there show
The berries of the mistletoe.
A sprig upon the chandelier
Says to the maidens, "Come not here!"
Even the pauper of the earth
Some kindly gift has cheered to mirth!

Within his chamber, dim and cold,
There sits a grasping miser old.
He has no thought save one of gain,—
To grind and gather and grasp and drain.
A peal of bells, a merry shout
Assail his ear: he gazes out
Upon a world to him all gray,
And snarls, "Why, this is Christmas Day!"

No, man of ice,—for shame, for shame!
For "Christmas Day" is no mere name.
No, not for you this ringing cheer,
This festal season of the year.
And not for you the chime of bells
From holy temple rolls and swells.
In day and deed he has no part—
Who holds not Christmas in his heart!


More by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies, 
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— 
This debt we pay to human guile; 
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile 
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise, 
In counting all our tears and sighs? 
Nay, let them only see us, while 
     We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries 
To thee from tortured souls arise. 
We sing, but oh the clay is vile 
Beneath our feet, and long the mile, 
But let the world dream otherwise, 
     We wear the mask!

Sympathy

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
   When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing
   Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
   And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

A Negro Love Song

Seen my lady home las' night,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel' huh han' an' sque'z it tight,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f'om huh eye,
An' a smile go flittin' by--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Hyeahd de win' blow thoo de pine,
    Jump back, honey, jump back,
Mockin'-bird was singin' fine,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
An' my hea't was beatin' so,
When I reached my lady's do',
Dat I couldn't ba' to go--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Put my ahm aroun' huh wais',
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an' took a tase,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well ez I love you?
An' she answe'd, "'Cose I do"--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Related Poems

Christmas Tide

                    
          When the merry spring time weaves
          Its peeping bloom and dewy leaves;
          When the primrose opes its eye,
          And the young moth flutters by;
          When the plaintive turtle dove
          Pours its notes of peace and love;
And the clear sun flings its glory bright and wide—
          Yet, my soul will own
          More joy in winter's frown,
And wake with warmer flush at Christmas tide.

          The summer beams may shine
          On the rich and curling vine,
          And the noon-tide rays light up
          The tulip's dazzling cup:
          But the pearly misletoe
          And the holly-berries' glow
Are not even by the boasted rose outvied;
          For the happy hearts beneath
          The green and coral wreath
Love the garlands that are twined at Christmas tide.

          Let the autumn days produce
          Yellow corn and purple juice,
          And Nature's feast be spread
          In the fruitage ripe and red;
          ’Tis grateful to behold
          Gushing grapes and fields of gold,
When cheeks are brown'd and red lips deeper dyed:
          But give, oh! give to me
          The winter night of glee,
The mirth and plenty seen at Christmas tide.

          The northern gust may howl,
          The rolling storm-cloud scowl,
          King Frost may make a slave
          Of the river's rapid wave,
          The snow-drift choke the path,
          Or the hail-shower spend its wrath;
But the sternest blast right bravely is defied,
          While limbs and spirits bound
          To the merry minstrel sound,
And social wood-fires blaze at Christmas tide.

          The song, the laugh, the shout,
          Shall mock the storm without;
          And sparkling wine-foam rise
          ’Neath still more sparkling eyes;
          The forms that rarely meet
          Then hand to hand shall greet,
And soul pledge soul that leagues too long divide.
          Mirth, friendship, love, and light
          Shall crown the winter night,
And every glad voice welcome Christmas tide.

          But while joy's echo falls 
          In gay and plenteous halls,
          Let the poor and lowly share
          The warmth, the sports, the fare;
          For the one of humble lot
          Must not shiver in his cot,
But claim a bounteous meed from wealth and pride.
          Shed kindly blessings round,
          Till no aching heart be found;
And then all hail to merry Christmas tide!