by Susan Coolidge (Sarah Chauncey Woolsey)
1835 – 1905
How did they keep his birthday then,
The little fair Christ, so long ago?
O, many there were to be housed and fed,
And there was no place in the inn, they said,
So into the manger the Christ must go,
To lodge with the cattle and not with men.
The ox and the ass they munched their hay
They munched and they slumbered, wondering not,
And out in the midnight cold and blue
The shepherds slept, and the sheep slept too,
Till the angels’ song and the bright star ray
Guided the wise men to the spot.
But only the wise men knelt and praised,
And only the shepherds came to see,
And the rest of the world cared not at all
For the little Christ in the oxen’s stall;
And we are angry and amazed
That such a dull, hard thing should be!
How do we keep his birthday now?
We ring the bells and we raise the strain,
We hang up garland, everywhere
And bid the tapers, twinkle fair,
And feast and frolic–and then we go
Back to the Mine old lives again.
Are we so better, then, than they
Who failed the new-born Christ to see?
To them a helpless babe,–to us
He shines a Saviour glorious,
Our Lord, our Friend, our All–yet we
Are half asleep this Christmas day.