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TO

RICHARD HEBER, Esq.

Mertoun-House, Christmas. HEAP on more wood !—the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We'll keep our Christmas merry still. Each age has deemed the new-born year Fit time for festival and cheer: Even heathen yet, the savage Dane At Iol more deep the mead did drain, High on the beach his galleys drew, And feasted all his pirate crew; Then in his low and pine-built hall, Where shields and axes decked the wall,

They gorged upon the half-dressed steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gpawed rib, and marrow-bone;
Or listened all, in grim delight,
While scalds yelled out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
And wildly loose their red locks fly;
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,

As best might to the mind recal
· The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old Loved when the year its course had rolled, And brought blithe Christmas back again, With all his hospitable train. Domestic and religious rite Gave honour to the holy night: On Christmas eve the bells were rung; On Christmas eve the mass was sung;

That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen ;
The hall was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the misletoe.
Then opened wide the baron's hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And Ceremony doffed his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner chuse ;
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair.”
All hailed, with uncontrolled delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied, Went roaring up the chimney wide;

The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubbed till it shone the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man ;
Then the grim boar’s-head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar;
While round the merry wassel bowl,
Garnished with ribbons, blithe did trowl.
There the huge sirloin reeked; hard by
Plumb-porridge stood, and Christmas pye ;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce,
At such high-tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din ;

If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made ;
But, O! what masquers richly dight
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.

Still linger in our northern clime
Some remnants of the good old time;
And still, within our vallies here,
We hold the kindred title dear,
Even when perchance its far-fetched claim
To Southron ear sounds empty name;

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