(Original.) Christmas, 1861.
Author:W. A. Abram
Publication:The Blackburn Times
Date:Dec 21st, 1861
This is quite a long poem at 77 lines, and is composed of eleven seven line stanzas. This uneven amount of lines makes for quite an unusual rhyme scheme of ABABCCB, with the ‘B’ rhymes typically consisting of multisyllabic ‘feminine rhymes’ in each stanza. This extra syllable extends a broad ballad rhythm, though there are several metric variations within the poem. The diction here is decidedly formal, with deliberate archaisms intended to emphasise the seriousness of the subject.
Christmas by the 1860s had become very much the cultural and commercial phenomenon we are familiar with today, in no small part due to the influence of Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). These dark takes on the Christmas theme were not exclusive to that story or the poetry of the Cotton Famine, and indeed subjects of poverty and hunger often attended seasonal narratives and verse in the Victorian imagination. Written near the beginning of the American war, this poem contains fascinating early commentary on the conflict’s effects on the region, but it also incorporates traditional seasonal themes of renewal and hope. – SR