Harry Graham: The Cynic's Christmas
Christmas is here! Let us deck ev'ry dwelling
With evergreen branches and mistletoe boughs!
With thoughts philanthropic our bosoms are swelling,
No shadow should darken our brows!
(But, alas! when we're fixing festoons to the ceiling,
The ladders we stand on are apt to give way,
When a desolate feeling comes over us stealing;
'Tis hard to be merry and gay!
And it's difficult, too, to feel thoroughly jolly
When painfully punctured by pieces of holly!)
Christmas is here! Let the plums and the suet
Be mingled once more in ungrudging supplies!
Let the lover of punch hasten swiftly to brew it!
Make ready a score of mince-pies!
(But, alas! let us not be completely forgetful
Of how indigestion is fostered and bred,
How a surfeit of food makes the family fretful,
While alcohol flies to the head;
Lest a fortnight devoted to over-nutrition
Entail a recourse to the nearest physician!)
Christmas is here! Ev'ry mother shall borrow
Her spouse's best stockings to tie to the cot
Of the baby, who hopes they'll contain, on the morrow,
Drums, trumpets, and goodness knows what!
(But it's rather a blow when the footwear allotted
To hang full of goodies and toys through the night,
Is returned to its owner, misshapen and clotted
With toffee and Turkish Delight;
While a drum is a bore if you constantly thump it,
And life can be poisoned by sounds from a trumpet!)
Christmas is here! All our nephews and nieces
Troop happily home to delight us at Yule!
We rejoice when the holiday season releases
The inmates of college and school!
(But perhaps when at dawn they awake us by shouting
'When Shepherds'—a hymn which they sing out of tune—
They may furnish some fifty good reasons for doubting
If holidays are such a boon;
And even the kindliest relative wearies
Of constantly answering juvenile queries!)
Christmas is here! Little children excited
Make domiciles vocal with shrieks of applause,
As they ask that the candle-decked fir-tree be lighted,
In honour of kind Santa Claus!
(But, alas! for the person of years known as 'riper'!
By clatter and racket his nerves are unstrung;
He is followed about, like a second Pied Piper,
By droves of the clamorous young!
All in vain does he seek for some haven of quiet;
No room in the building is free from their riot!)
Christmas is here! Let us load our relations
With presents expensive and offerings rare,
And assume, as we lavish our tips and donations,
A noble and bountiful air!
(But, alas! when we've purchased the costliest jewel
For dear Cousin Jane, and despatched it by post,
And she sends in return a small mat, worked in crewel,
And worth eighteenpence at the most,
Shall we say, recollecting the gift that we bought her,
'Dear Jane is a trifle more dear than we thought her'?)
Christmas is here! Let us go serenading,
In glees and in madrigals raising our voice,
In the snow of the street, 'neath your windows parading,
O maidens divine of our choice!
(But we mustn't forget how our last Christmas carols
Were spoilt by your parents' inhuman attacks,
When they brought out their shot-guns and emptied both barrels
Bang into the smalls of our backs!
If one justly expects some applause and encoring,
A ball in the back is excessively boring!)
Christmas is here! At a season so sprightly
We banish all thoughts about mundane affairs,
And attempt to be gay and to smile fairly brightly,
In spite of our worries and cares.
(But financial embarrassments mortify most men
Whose hearts a prognostic of bankruptcy grips,
When the dustmen and milkmen, policemen and postmen,
Demand their habitual tips!)
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Then tell me—and grateful I'll be to you, very—
Oh, tell me why Christmas was ever called 'Merry'!