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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.



By Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866)

Anonymous translation

HOW birdlike o’er the flakes of snow

Its fairy footsteps flew!

And on its soft and childish brow

How delicate the hue!

And expectation wings its feet,

And stirs its infant smile;

The merry bells their chime repeat;

The child stands still the while.

Then clasps in joy its little hand;

Then marks the Christian dome;

The stranger child, in stranger land,

Feels now as if at home.

It runs along the sparkling ground;

Its face with gladness beams:

It frolics in the blaze around,

Which from each window gleams.

The shadows dance upon the wall,

Reflected from the trees;

And from the branches, green and tall,

The glittering gifts it sees.

It views within the lighted hall

The charm of social love;—

O, what a joyous festival!

’T is sanctioned from above.

But now the childish heart’s unstrung;

“Where is my taper’s light?

And why no evergreen been hung

With toys for me to-night?

“In my sweet home there was a band

Of holy love for me;

A mother’s kind and tender hand

Once decked my Christmas-tree.

“O, some one take me ’neath the blaze

Of those light tapers, do!

And, children, I can feel the plays;

O, let me play with you!

“I care not for the prettiest toy;

I want the love of home;

O, let me in your playful joy,

Forget I have to roam!”

The little fragile hand is raised,

It strikes at every gate;

In every window earnest gazed,

Then mid the snow it sate.

“Christinkle! thou, the children’s friend,

I ’ve none to love me now!

Hast thou forgot my tree to send,

With lights on every bough?”

The baby’s hands are numbed with frost,

Yet press the little cloak;

Then on its breast in meekness crossed,

A sigh the silence broke.

And closer still the cloak it drew

Around its silken hair;

Its pretty eyes, so clear and blue,

Alone defied the air.

Then came another pilgrim-child,—

A shining light he held;

The accents fell so sweet and mild,

All music they excelled.

“I am thy Christmas friend, indeed,

And once a child like thee;

When all forget, thou need’st not plead,—

I will adorn thy tree.

“My joys are felt in street or bower,

My aid is everywhere;

Thy Christmas-tree, my precious flower,

Here, in the open air,

“Shall far outshine those other trees

Which caught thy infant eye.”

The stranger child looks up, and sees,

Far, in the deep blue sky,

A glorious tree, and stars among

The branches hang their light;

The child, with soul all music, sung,

“My tree indeed is bright!”

As ’neath the power of a dream

The infant closed its eyes,

And troops of radiant angels seem

Descending from the skies,

The baby to its Christ they bear;

With Jesus it shall live;

It finds a home and treasure there

Sweeter than earth can give.