One night when ‘twas dark and gloomy,
And the rain came pouring down,
As I heard a traveller’s [foot fall]
Pacing to the market-town.
I drew my chair close to the fire,
Snuff’d the light and order’d tea:
The wind gave pleasure with a sign,
That poor traveller “is not I.”
Then I took the youngest baby
Fondly to his father’s breast
And I bless’d a Christmas morning,
For his comfort, food, and rest.
Then the good wife of this cottage,
Startled as she heard the storm;
And she pitied all poor wretches,
Who were wand’ring weary worn.
* * * * *
Why we live and love so happy ---
Why we feel the bless of life ---
Is because we’ve known the sorrows
Which are in the lowlands rife.
We had a weary pilgrimage
‘Ere we settled down to live
‘Ere we took the blessed comforts
Which the world was loth to give.
We have known the bitter hunger
With our babes all wanting bread;
Nor knew we of the cheerful hearth
Save what we in stories read.
We were forc’d to tramp and wander
Searching out some chosen spot
Where industry might labor,
Giving blessings we had not,
Till there came a bright excelsior;
Work for I and wife to do,
With a steady, long increasing;
Then life to us broke forth anew.
* * * * *
And we took the morsel offer’d;
Thank’d the morn and work’d for more,
Learn’d to pity poor wayfarers
Straying to our cottage door.
* * * * *
None know the sorrows o’ the poor
Save those who wrong’d have been,
When the gaunt and grisly famine
In his terror bare is seen.
We started life in buoyant hope,
Believing there’s room for all,
With a fervent heart-felt longing,
Never dreaming of the gall.
Young and foolish we had married
With nothing but love to try;
But we found all cold and cheerless,
Save our souls – they did not die.
When beneath the hedge we’ve shelter’d,
Nestling close to keep us warm,
Or with some more generous homestead,
In the straw-yard of a farm;
Never knew we blacken’d envy;
We had brav’d the world for love;
And our hearts, [strong] in our purpose,
Lifted us all crime above
Often ‘neath the moon’s pale lighting
We have weary tramp’d a mile,
Talking of our youthful courtship,
When our seat was the old stile.
Now we’ve braved the hard endeavours;
We have home and friends around;
Need you wonder at our feelings
When the gloomy night is found,
Playing capers with the rain spots,
The wind in chorus sighing,
While our kettle gives us music,
And no little ones are crying
For the bread or for the shelter;
Can you not believe I see
The past with pleasure gone away -
A future bright before me.
* * * * *
So in earnest of the better,
I’ll detail a Christmas time
When God’s finger touch’d my spirit,
Waking up the latent prime –
When the darkness was dispell’d,
When it seem’d a life of light
When the mountains and the valleys
Seemed to sing my song of right;
And the heart-valves opened up
A dear unsought-for minstrelsy;
And every bush and cold did take
A part in all my revelry.
* * * * *
Christ-tide had come with crisping snow,
Ground was harden’d by the cold,
A north-east wind did stiffly blow,
The sheep crept closely in the fold.
Sun rise was [peeking] up the east,
Shadows tipp’d the distant west,
Nights mantle was all folded up,
[And] I was seeking Christmas rest.
A [storm] -bird seeking land was I,
A horseless wanderer wanting home,
A [] without a guiding star,
“Seeking rest but finding none.”
In vision of the night there came,
A revelation of a birth;
If I had own’d a fair domain
The dream it would have given mirth.
I was journeying from the sea
To find if my dream was true,
And cast my eyes abroad to look
Upon the landscapes always new.
Last coins were paid for rent of bed,
Warm clothing was sold before;
A ten miles’ march I undertook
Over mountains and the moor.
Breakfast I had not to purchase,
So with a stomach light as heart,
I made a breakfast off sunrise,
And became of it a part.
On the highest point of mountain,
That the eye sees in the shire,
Musing I turn’d me round to look,
With an eager wild desire,
For all the knowledge of the dream –
If the lov’d had ought to eat?
Should I find myself an outcast –
Was the vision but a cheat?
I had wept my tears of sadness;
Heard reproaches in my sleep;
And, with half-choking utterance,
Turn’d once more awake to weep.
There, before me, was the distance,
Hedge and wood, and field and lee,
All so calmly in the sunrise,
Christmas bells rang merrily.
While I gaz’d upon the beauties,
I felt a sudden sense of joy –
House without, food or penniless,
Could not then my bliss alloy.
Lord I sang and felt a pleasure
Then, in silence, worshipp’d all –
Determining to be like nature
Whate’re might myself befall.
Whistling up the mountain came
Gushes of the Christmas morn;
Wild furze dancing to the music –
Shaking was the huge blackthorn
Music of a brother poet
Came so balmy to my ear;
Why desponding? Will not nature
Teach you to be strong and bear?
* * * * *
“Ah! why dissatisfied? Why for ever longing
For the far off unattain’d and dim?
While the beautiful, all around thee lying,
Offers up its low, perpetual hymn?”
* * * * *
Down the mountain, poor in pocket,
Rich in spirit, down went I,
Boldly through the woods and meadows,
Casting life upon the die.
And I found the vision truly –
Found a Christ to me that morn
In a little week-old baby,
Known to me as my first-born.
Poor the homestead, hard the wallet,
Strong in purpose, I was free,
In the outburst of my manhood
I had solv’d my mystery.
Though our fare was of the poorest,
Though dependance curs’d my thought,
Still I bless the scene at Christ-tide
For the goodness that it wrought
Though we struggled long and [hardly] ,
Tasting of the bitter cup;
Days without nor food nor money,
Helps a man to drain it up.
So never round a Christmas comes,
But we pledge the happy morn,
When first God’s sunrise taught me how
To love the babe poorly born.
* * * * *
Go, you! all the world knows sorrow;
There are some whose advent gloom
May depend on what a stranger
Casts upon life’s ocean stream.
God’s finger may be touching you –
Light to darkness – light to life;
And the opening vista dawneth
When you help to heal the strife
Felt by a wounded struggling heart,
Bearing up ‘gainst its own pain.
Help such, bless such, let such love you,
Then your Christ-tide’s not in vain.

Title:A Christmas Carol


Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:December 28th 1861

Keywords:domesticity, family, poverty, religion


This narrative poem, borrowing the title of Dickens’ famous story, similarly addresses the subject of poverty in winter time but updates the message to the Cotton Famine context. The reference to ‘gaunt and grisly famine’ in the first winter of the crisis must have resonated with readers and the poem might function as an encouragement to the still employed working-classes to give relief and charity to those whom unemployment has recently impoverished. The religious allegory is convoluted here but one point which comes through clearly is the often-quoted observation that Christ himself was of lowly birth. – SR