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Down swept the chill wind from the mountain

peak, 175

From the snow five thousand summers old;
On open wold and hill-top bleak

It had gathered all the cold,
And whirled it like sleet on the wanderer's check;

It carried a shiver everywhere
180 From the unleafed boughs and pastures bare;

The little brook heard it and built a roof
'Neath which he could house him, winter-proof;
All night by the white stars' frosty gleams

He groined his arches and matched his beams; 185 Slender and clear were his crystal spars

As the lashes of light that trim the stars;
He sculptured every summer delight
In his halls and chambers out of sight;

Sometimes his tinkling waters slipt
190 Down through a frost-leaved forest-crypt,

Long, sparkling aisles of steel-stemmed trees
Bending to counterfeit a breeze;
Sometimes the roof no fretwork knew

But silvery mosses that downward grew; 195 Sometimes it was carved in sharp relief

With quaint arabesques of ice-fern leaf;
Sometimes it was simply smooth and clear
For the gladness of heaven to shine through, and

He had caught the nodding bulrush-tops
20C And hung them thickly with diamond drops,

174. Note the different moods that are indicated by the two preludes. The one is of June, he other of snow and winter. By these preludes the poet, like an organist, strikes a key which he holds in the subsequent part.

That crystalled the beams of moon and sun,
And made a star of every one:
No mortal builder's most rare device

Could match this winter-palace of ice;
205 ’T was as if every image that mirrored lay

In his depths serene through the summer day,
Each fleeting shadow of earth and sky,

Lest the happy model should be lost,
Had been mimicked in fairy masonry

By the elfin builders of the frost.


Within the hall are song and laughter,

The cheeks of Christmas glow red and jolly, And sprouting is every corbel and rafter

With lightsome green of ivy and holly; 215 Through the deep gulf of the chimney wide

Wallows the Yule-log's roaring tide;
The broad flame-pennons droop and flap

And belly and tug as a flag in the wind;
Like a locust shrills the imprisoned sap,

Hunted to death in its galleries blind;
And swift little troops of silent sparks,

Now pausing, now scattering away as in fear,
Go threading the soot-forest's tangled darks

Like herds of startled deer.



203. The Empress of Russia, Catherine II., in a magnificent freak, built a palace of ice, which was a nine-days' wonder Cowper has given a poetical description of it in The Task, Book V. lines 131-176.

216. The Yule-log was anciently a huge log burned at the feast of Juul by our Scandinavian ancestors in honor of the god Thor. Juul-tid corresponded in time to Christmas tide, and when Christian festivities took the place of pagan, many cer. emonies remained. The great log, still called the Yule-log, was dragged in and burned in the fire-place after Thor had been forgotten.

225 But the wind without was eager and sharp, Of Sir Launfal's gray hair it makes a harp,

And rattles and wrings

The icy strings,

Singing, in dreary monotone, 230

A Christmas carol of its own,
Whose burden still, as he might guess,

" Shelterless, shelterless, shelterless!” The voice of the seneschal flared like a torch

As he shouted the wanderer away from the porch, 235 And he sat in the gateway and saw all night

The great hall-fire, so cheery and bold,

Through the window-slits of the castle old,
Build out its piers of ruddy light
Against the drift of the cold.





240 Tuere was never a leaf on bush or tree,

The bare boughs rattled shudderingly.;
The river was dumb and could not speak,

For the weaver Winter its shroud had spun;

A single crow on the tree-top bleak 245 From his shining feathers shed off the cold son ;

Again it was morning, but shrunk and cold,
As if her veins were sapless and old,
And she rose up decrepitly
For a last dim look at earth and sea.


250 Sir Launfal turned from his own hard gate,

For another heir in the earldom sate;
An old, bent man, worn out and frail,
He came back from seeking the Holy Grail;

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