With no wintry garlands from the woods,
Wrought of the leafless branch or ivy sere,
Wreathe I thy tresses, dark December now;
Me higher quarrel calls, with loudest song,
And fearful joy to celebrate the day
Of the Redeemer. Near two thousand suns
Have set their seals upon the rolling lapse
Of generation, since the dayspring first
Beamed from on high. Now, to the mighty mass
Of that increasing aggregate we add
One unit more, - space, in comparison,
How small, yet marked with how much misery:
Wars, famines, and the fury, pestilence,
Over the nations hanging her dread scourge;
The oppressed, too, in silent bitterness,
Weeping their sufferance; and the arm of wrong
Forcing the scanty portion from the weak,
And steeping the lone widow’s coach with tears.
So has the year been character’d with woe
In Christian land, and marked with wrongs and crimes;
Yet ‘twas not thus He taught – not thus He lived,
Whose birth we this day celebrate with prayer
And much thanksgiving. He a man of woes,
Went on the way appointed – path though rude,
Yet borne with patience still; He came to cheer
The broken-hearted, to rise up the sick,
And on the wandering and benighted mind
To pour the light of truth. Oh task divine!
Oh more than angel teacher! He had words
To soothe the barking waves, and hush the winds;
And when the soul was tossed in troubled seas
Wrapped in thick darkness and the howling storm,
He, pointing to the star of peace on high,
Arm’d it with holy fortitude, and bade it smile
At the surrounding wreck.

Title:Christmas Garland

Author:H. Kirke White

Publication:Rochdale Pilot

Published in:Rochdale

Date:Dec 20 1862

Keywords:famine, religion, war


This religious celebration of Christmas speaks in general terms of war and famine but in this publication context it must have been read particularly keenly. The winter of 162-63 was the very worst period of the Cotton Famine, and mill towns like Rochdale were particularly hard hit by record levels of unemployment and destitution. Many Christmas poems published across the region at this time urge hope and express a wish for renewal. – SR