Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THAT GRAY, COLD CHRISTMAS DAY (DECEMBER 25, 1620), by HEZEKIAH BUTTERWORTH



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THAT GRAY, COLD CHRISTMAS DAY (DECEMBER 25, 1620), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: They sailed away from provincetown bay
Last Line: That gray, cold christmas day?
Subject(s): Christmas; Pilgrim Fathers; Nativity, The


THEY sailed away from Provincetown Bay
In the fireless light of the sun,
And they came at night to a havened height,
And the journey at last was done.
With rain and sleet were the tall masts iced,
And frosty and dark was the air,
But they looked from the crystal sails to Christ,
As they moored in the harbor fair.

The snow came down on the vacant seas
And deep on the lone rocks lay,
But their axes rang 'mid the evergreen trees,
And followed the Sabbath day.
The Christmas came, in a crimson haze,
And the workmen said at dawn,
"Shall our axes swing on this day of days,
When the Lord of Light was born?"

"The old towns' bells we seem to hear,
They are ringing sweet on the Dee;
They are ringing sweet on the Harlem-Meer,
And sweet on the Zuyder Zee.
The pines are frosted with snow and sleet:
Shall we our axes wield,
When the bells of Lincoln are ringing sweet
And the bells of Austerfield?"

Then the Master said, "Your axes wield,
Remember ye Malabarre Bay,
And the covenant there, with the Lord ye sealed,
Let your axes ring to-day.
You may talk of the old towns' bells to-night
When your work for the Lord is done;
And your boats return, and the shallop's light
Shall follow the light of the sun.

"If the Lord was born on Christmas Day,
And the Day of Him is blest,
Then low at His feet the evergreens lay,
And cradle His church in the West.
Immanuel waits at the temple gates
Of the nation to-day ye found,
And the Lord delights in no empty rites—
To-day let your axes sound!"

Their axes rung through the evergreen trees,
Like the bells on the Thames and Tay,
And they cheering sang by the windy seas,
And they thought of Malabarre Bay.
On the lonely heights of Burial Hill,
The old Precisioners sleep,
But did ever men with a nobler will
A goodlier Christmas keep—
When sky was cold and gray,
And there were no ancient bells to ring,
No priests to chant, no choirs to sing,
No chapel of baron, lord or king,
That gray, cold Christmas Day?





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