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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Under the Snow

By Robert Collyer (1823–1912)

[Born in Keighley, Yorkshire, England, 1823. Died in New York, N. Y., 1912. Treasures New and Old. Edited by Alice L. Williams. 1884.]

IT was Christmas Eve in the year fourteen,

And, as ancient dalesmen used to tell,

The wildest winter they ever had seen,

With the snow lying deep on moor and fell,

When Wagoner John got out his team,

Smiler and Whitefoot, Duke and Gray,

With the light in his eyes of a young man’s dream,

As he thought of his wedding on New Year’s Day

To Ruth, the maid with the bonnie brown hair,

And eyes of the deepest, sunniest blue,

Modest and winsome, and wondrous fair,

And true to her troth, for her heart was true.

“Thou’s surely not going!” shouted mine host;

“Thou’ll be lost in the drift, as sure as thou’s born;

Thy lass winnot want to wed wi’ a ghost,

And that’s what thou’ll be on Christmas morn.

“It’s eleven long miles from Skipton toon

To Blueberg hooses ’e Washburn dale:

Thou had better turn back and sit thee doon,

And comfort thy heart wi’ a drop o’ good ale.”

Turn the swallows flying south,

Turn the vines against the sun,

Herds from rivers in the drouth,

Men must dare or nothing’s done.

So what cares the lover for storm or drift,

Or peril of death on the haggard way?

He sings to himself like a lark in the lift,

And the joy in his heart turns December to May.

But the wind from the north brings a deadly chill

Creeping into his heart, and the drifts are deep,

Where the thick of the storm strikes Blueberg hill.

He is weary and falls in a pleasant sleep,

And dreams he is walking by Washburn side,

Walking with Ruth on a summer’s day,

Singing that song to his bonnie bride,

His own wife now forever and aye.

Now rend me this riddle, how Ruth should hear

That song of a heart in the clutch of doom

Steal on her ear, distinct and clear

As if her lover was in the room.

And read me this riddle, how Ruth should know,

As she bounds to throw open the heavy door,

That her lover was lost in the drifting snow,

Dying or dead, on the great wild moor.

“Help! help!” “Lost! lost!”

Rings through the night as she rushes away,

Stumbling, blinded and tempest-tossed,

Straight to the drift where her lover lay.

And swift they leap after her into the night,

Into the drifts by Blueberg hill,

Ridsdale and Robinson, each with a light,

To find her there holding him white and still.

“He was dead in the drift, then,”

I hear them say,

As I listen in wonder,

Forgetting to play,

Fifty years syne come Christmas Day.

“Nay, nay, they were wed!” the dalesman cried,

“By Parson Carmalt o’ New Year’s Day;

Bless ye! Ruth were me great-great grandsire’s bride,

And Maister Frankland gave her away.”

“But how did she find him under the snow?”

They cried with a laughter touched with tears.

“Nay, lads,” he said softly, “we never can know—

“No, not if we live a hundred years.

“There’s a sight o’ things gan

To the making o’ man.”

Then I rushed to my play

With a whoop and away,

Fifty years syne come Christmas Day.