Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The Christmas Holly

The holly! the holly! oh, twine it with bay—
   Come give the holly a song;
For it helps to drive stern winter away,
   With his garment so sombre and long.
It peeps through the trees with its berries of red,
   And its leaves of burnish’d green,
When the flowers and fruits have long been dead,
   And not even the daisy is seen,
Then sing to the holly, the Christmas holly,
   That hangs over peasant and king:
While we laugh and carouse ’neath its glitt’ring boughs,
   To the Christmas holly we’ll sing.

The gale may whistle, and frost may come,
   To fetter the gurgling rill;
The woods may be bare, and the warblers dumb—
   But the holly is beautiful still.
In the revel and light of princely halls,
   The bright holly-branch is found;
And its shadow falls on the lowliest walls,
   While the brimming horn goes round.
Then drink to the holly, &c.

The ivy lives long, but its home must be
   Where graves and ruins are spread;
There’s beauty about the cypress tree,
   But it flourishes near the dead:
The laurel the warrior’s brow may wreathe,
   But it tells of tears and blood.
I sing the holly, and who can breathe
   Aught of that that is not good?
Then sing to the holly, &c.

Credit


This poem appeared in Melaia and Other Poems (Charles Tilt, 1840). It is in the public domain.

Author


Eliza Cook

Eliza Cook was born on December 24, 1818, in London, England. Self-educated as a child, she began writing poems at the age of fifteen and published her first poetry collection, Lays of a Wild Harp: A Collection of Metrical Pieces (John Bennett, 1835), two years later.

Cook also published poems in magazines such as Metropolitan Magazine, New Monthly Magazine, and Weekly Dispatch, which published her most popular poem, “The Old Arm-Chair.” In 1838, Cook published her second collection, Melaia and Other Poems, which was well received in both England and America. It was reissued in 1844.

Known as a poet of the working class, Cook wrote poems that advocated for political freedom for women and addressed questions of class and social justice. Despite her popularity, she was criticized for the ways in which she bucked gender conventions in both her writing and her life; Cook wore male clothing and had a relationship with American actress Charlotte Cushman, to whom she addressed a number of her poems.

In 1849, Cook started a penny-biweekly called Eliza Cook’s Journal, which contained poems, reviews, and social essays written mostly by her for a female audience. She continued the publication until 1854. Plagued by bad health in the last years of her life, Cook published little; she died on September 23, 1889, in Wimbledon, England.

Date Published: 2017-12-07

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/christmas-holly