The Belgian Christmas

By Madison Cawein

The ‘happy year’ of 1914
AN hour from dawn:
The snow sweeps on
As it swept with sleet last night: The Earth around
Breathes never a sound,
Wrapped in its shroud of white.
A waked cock crows
Under the snows;
Then silence.— After while
The sky grows blue,
And a star looks through
With a kind o’ bitter smile.
A whining dog;
An axe on a log,
And a muffled voice that calls:
A cow’s long low;
Then footsteps slow
Stamping into the stalls.
A bed of straw
Where the wind blows raw
Through cracks of the stable door:
A child’s small cry,
A voice nearby,
That says, ‘One mouth the more.’
A different note
In a man’s rough throat
As he turns at an entering tread — Satyrs! see!
‘My woman — she
Was brought last night to bed!’
A cry of ‘Halt!’—
‘Ach! ich bin kalt!’
‘A spy!’—’No.’—’That is clear!
There’s a good shake-down
I’ the jail in town —
For her!’ —And then, ‘My orders here.’ A shot, sharp-rolled
As the clouds unfold:
The World’s Poetry Archive A scream; and a cry forlorn… Clothed red with fire,
Like the Heart’s Desire,
Look down the Christmas Morn. The babe with light
Is haloed bright,
And it is Christmas Day:
A cry of woe;
Then footsteps slow,
And the wild guns, far away.

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