Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CHRISTMAS CAMP ON THE SAN GABR'EL, by AMELIA EDITH HUDDLESTON BARR



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A CHRISTMAS CAMP ON THE SAN GABR'EL, by            
First Line: Lamar and his rangers camped at dawn on the banks of the san gabr'el
Last Line: May god be merciful to them, as they were merciful to their guest!
Subject(s): Christmas; Nativity, The


LAMAR and his Rangers camped at dawn on the banks of the San Gabr'el,
Under the mossy live-oaks, in the heart of a lonely dell;
With the cloudless Texas sky above, and the musquite grass below,
And all the prairie lying still, in a misty, silvery glow.

The sound of the horses cropping grass, the fall of a nut, full ripe,
The stir of a weary soldier, or the tap of a smoked-out pipe,
Fell only as sounds in a dream may fall upon a drowsy ear,
Till the Captain said, "'T is Christmas Day! so, boys, we'll spend it here;

"For the sake of our homes and our childhood, we'll give the day its dues."
Then some leaped up to prepare the feast, and some sat still to muse,
And some pulled scarlet yupon-berries and wax-white mistletoe,
To garland the stand-up rifles, -- for Christmas has no foe.

And every heart had a pleasant thought, or a tender memory,
Of unforgotten Christmas Tides that nevermore might be;
They felt the thrill of a mother's kiss, they heard the happy psalm,
And the men grew still, and all the camp was full of a gracious calm.

"Halt!" cried the sentinel; and lo! from out of the brushwood near
There came, with weary, fainting step, a man in mortal fear, --
A brutal man, with a tiger's heart, and yet he made this plea:
"I am dying of hunger and thirst, so do what you will with me."

They knew him well: who did not know the cruel San Sabatan, --
The robber of the Rio Grande, who spared not any man?
In low, fierce tones they spoke his name, and looked at a coil of rope;
And the man crouched down in abject fear -- how could he dare to hope?

The Captain had just been thinking of the book his mother read,
Of a Saviour born on Christmas Day, who bowed on the cross his head;
Blending the thought of his mother's tears with the holy mother's grief, --
And when he saw San Sabatan, he thought of the dying thief.

He spoke to the men in whispers, and they heeded the words he said,
And brought to the perishing robber, water and meat and bread.
He ate and drank like a famished wolf, and then lay down to rest,
And the camp, perchance, had a stiller feast for its strange Christmas guest.

But, or ever the morning dawned again, the Captain touched his hand:
"Here is a horse, and some meat and bread; fly to the Rio Grande!
Fly for your life! We follow hard; touch nothing on your way --
Your life was only spared because 't was Jesus Christ's birthday."

He watched him ride as the falcon flies, then turned to the breaking day;
The men awoke, the Christmas berries were quietly cast away;
And, full of thought, they saddled again, and rode off into the west --
May God be merciful to them, as they were merciful to their guest!





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