BALLAD OF A VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS,"

Or, "HOW TWO LITTLE MAIDS FARED COME YULETIDE ON DRABSTONE ROW"

by Eben


Dedicated to Irene Goldammer, Retired Puyallup, Washington, Elementary School Teacher and Friend with the Heart of a Child who loved this Poem and read it Many Times during her Last year of Life. She was the Only One Who Has Loved This Poem That Much. This Poem is also Dedicated to the Author's late Aunt, Estelle Rangen, Who was a Champion of Faith, in a Valiant Struggle with Cancer of the Liver that She Never Conceded, and Who Also Appreciated This Poem and Requested This Poem to be Read on Her Visit to Plain View Farm at the Reunion of 2000.


To be read by Lamplight, with a Warm Fire in the Grate, along with Cups of Hot Cider or Cocoa to dispell the Chills and Draughts of a Cold Winter Evening

Designed for Grandparents, Parents, and Their Offspring & Descendants, or Simply, Mother and Children

Once there was a cottage rough,

when Christmas gave more than she took.

Muffin-cheeked, their dog named Puff,

two little maids step from a book.

But if one may be e'er so bold,

the sentiment can turn quite cold

as soon as they step back inside

their roof half-thatched, the walls cracked wide--

you see, it's now the cruel wintertime,

when harsh winds blow a cruel rhyme.

And what's behind those frosty trees?

If not wolves, then factories!

Working children dawn to dark,

while lords and ladies dine and lark,

walled high against Drabstone Row--

where hopeless hearts sob with woe.

Yet Jesus warms the poorest scenes,

e'en where two children lay their greens.

No tree, no gifts but mistletoe,

no pudding--yet Jesus came--it's truly so!

Knocking at the broken door,

stepping in a bit to see,

He saw the maids and Puff dance merry.


"Oh!" they cried, surprised at him,

and he was quick to bow to them.

"My fine ladies, before you sup,

grant some crust, some cheering cup!

That's all I ask, and then I'll go,

I've work to do, a field to mow."


Bowing low, the old man ate

the maidens' all, then rose up late.

He gave God thanks for his repast,

then left the maids--who followed fast.


But nowhere on the road was he,

the old man vanished, angelically.

"How HE doth fly!" Tess said to Nell,

and then they went to wish men well.

From house to house they caroled forth,

glad Christmas Eve they sang Christ's birth.

No gift they bore but mistletoe,

and songs of joy, and not of woe.

The wind waxed fierce, the cold too great,

no door opened at Vicar's gate.

No welcome in, no cheering word,

the maids lost heart and turned homeward.

Dear Puff got not one, not one ham bone,

yet wind cast him a suet cone!


Now what to do for Christmas Day?

All hopes were dashed, blown far away.

With tears they hung the mistletoe

on mantel and without a bow.

Later, when the maids sleep found,

their parents home from mills near town,

a knock nigh cleft the door in two,

as if a giant cast his shoe.

"Where are the maids that cheered our Lord?"

a voice commanded like a sword.

Outsprang Puff to bark his stuff,

as when feet trod his tail enough.

The maids shook frightened

in their bed--

but soon the door was shut instead.


Christmas morning they out crept,

to find a tree, the hearth well-swept.

Beneath the tree lay crimson joys,

all presents of the choicest toys.

Dolls with china faces sweet,

music boxes and mittens neat.


Cloaks with ermine trim royale

came with candles and a bell.

Sachets ladies do prefer,

full of lavender and myrrh,

Green velvet hats to take the weather,

These and many other things

lifted up their hearts on wings.


And the table groaned with food

fit for kings and queens, not rude.

Each place had marked their names

in gold, with invitations--we are told.

"Inasmuch as you have done

a kindness to the very least,

you've done it too to My dear Son,

and gained a place at Wedding feast."


Imagine how the news broke far

and wide round this poor home--

none worse beside!

A great lord's call, so it was said,

gained sisters' place at some fine ball.

Afraid that it was just a jest,

the mother kept her daughters, lest

a cruel joke be played on them,

because their lot was dark and grim.

Three sons she had, and all had lost,

she knew full well what lack could cost.

A doctor might have saved each lad;

but he asked pay more than they had.

Quick in turn, each grave was dug,

their winding sheets, a coarse rag rug.

And now, when heaven favored them?

She thought the kindness cruel whim.


Ten quail in jelly, cured ham, eel,

Yorkshire pudding, nod, and veal?

Mince pies, less one from nine,

a roasted pig bordered with thyme--

their poor father squandered all of it,

his daughters got not one small bit.

Incited by the grand banquet,

he bragged of riches and, to wit,

the whole provision was devoured,

he himself revealed a coward,

as the locusts poured from town

and left his table upside down.


One by one, the maids' fine dolls

were pawned for gin, the kind that palls.

Just as poor as at the start,

the father's will just broke apart.

He lost his arm in a machine

and then he died, his wound turned green.


The wife despaired, she fell down

ill, and soon she lay next him on hill.

Orphaned Nell and Tess sought work,

'midst thund'ring looms that race and jerk.

They too fell ill and lay alone,

their cupboard stripped right to a bone.

Yet, poor Puff! It proved too late,

e'en for pups, Death could not wait).


But suddenly, at dead o' night,

the road was flooded with great light.

A golden carriage came to rest

where once the Lord was made a guest.

Angels helped the blest maids up,

and they were handed Puff their pup!

Away they sped toward heaven's gate,

the Wedding held, they were not late!

************




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