A Christmas Letter by Douglas B. W. Sladen

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'Tis Christmas, and the north wind blows;
   'Twas two years yesterday
Since from the Lusitania's bows
   I looked o'er Table Bay,
A tripper round the narrow world,
   A pilgrim of the main,
Expecting when her sails unfurled
   To start for home again.

And steaming thence three weeks or more
   I reached Victoria,
Upon her hospitable shore
   To make a few months' stay;
But month on month unnoticed fled,
   And ere the year had come
I chose the land I visited
   To be my future home.

'Tis Christmas, and the north wind blows;
   Our hearts are one to-day,
Though you are 'mid the English snows,
   I in Australia.
You, when you hear the northern blast,
   Pile coals upon your fires;
We strip until the storm is past,
   While every pore perspires.

I fancy I can picture you
   Upon this Christmas night
Just sitting as you used to do ---
   The laughter at its height;
And then a sudden silent pause
   Falling upon your glee,
And kind eyes glistening because
   You chanced to think of me.   

This morning, when I woke and knew
   Christmas had come again,
I almost fancied I could view
   Rime on the window pane,
And hear the ringing of the wheels
   Upon the frosty ground,
And see the drip that downward steals
   In icy fetters bound.

I daresay you've been on the lake,
   Or sliding on the snow,
And breathing on your hands to make
   The circulation flow,
Nestling your nose among the furs
   Of which your boa's made.
The Fahrenheit here registers
   A hundred in the shade.

It doesn't seem like Christmas here,
   With this unclouded sky,
This pure transparent atmosphere,
   And with the sun so high:
To see the rose upon the bush,
   The leaves upon the trees,
To hear the forest's summer hush,
   Or the low hum of bees.

But cold winds don't bring Christmas tide,
   Or budding roses June;
And when it's night upon your side
   We're basking in the noon.
Kind hearts make Christmas, June may bring
   Blue sky or clouds above,
The only universal spring
   Is that which comes with love.

And so it's Christmas in the South,
   As on the North Sea coasts;
Though we are starved with summer drouth,
   And you with winter frosts;
And we shall have our roast beef here,
   And think of you the while,
Who in the other hemisphere
   Cling to the mother-isle.

Feel sure that we shall drink to you,
   We who have wandered forth;
And many a million thoughts will go
   To-day from South to North.
Old heads will muse on churches old
   Where bells will ring to-day,
The very bells perchance that tolled
   Their fathers to the clay.

And now, good night. Maybe I'll dream
   That I am with you all,
Watching the ruddy embers gleam
   Over the panelled hall.
I care not if I dream or not;
   Though severed by the foam,
My heart is always in the spot
   That was my childhood's home.

First published in The Queenslander, 24 December 1881

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 24, 2011 8:38 AM.

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