Sunday, July 19, 2020
Beautiful poem from December 1962 Woman's Day
The magazine cover alludes to "a beautiful, unforgettable poem At Christmas Time" -- and the full-page poem, by Camilla R. Bittle, is just that. I am going to share the poem in its entirety here even though it is much longer than poems I usually share. Reading the poem made me very interested to see if I could learn more about its author. Camilla Bittle wrote magazine stories and articles as well as poems and a number of novels. I so enjoyed reading about her life here: Babson Profiles, and I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did. You will need to scroll down to get to her profile. I think hers is the fourth profile listed.
On to the poem:
At Christmas Time
At Christmas time, when I was small,
We placed the figures in the stall
(Mary, Blessed Babe, and all),
Hung mistletoe high in the hall,
Made calendars for kitchen walls,
And decked our tree with shiny balls.
On Christmas Eve beside the fire,
We gathered round the wicker chair
To hear our mother's mother read
Of sugarplums that danced in air,
Of moonlight on new fallen snow,
And this we knew -- as children know --
Was evidence of love below
The great high arc of heaven's dome,
Of Christmases secured by home.
The cold -- a stabbing, piercing knife.
The stars -- small, dazzling flecks of light.
Our breath rose up in columns white,
And, oh, the still of Christmas night!
Each year we did the very same,
Wrote cards, made lists, our cousins came.
On Christmas Eve out caroling,
Our cheeks bared to the icy sting
Of snowy wind, grew tingling.
We sang as loud as we could sing.
I ask myself -- what did it mean,
The stockings, tinsel, branches green,
The smell of oranges and pie,
The wreaths, the bells, the winter sky
Where once a star shone for The Child,
Whose birth we hailed with praises mild,
While overhead the Milky Way
Was passage for Old Santa's sleigh.
We still hang up the mistletoe.
My children's faces rosy grow,
Their boots squeak on the hard-packed snow.
Their eyes with eagerness will glow,
And I'm the only one who'll know
That it was different long ago.
The tree still flaunts its branches.
The sky is jet, the stars wink light.
There is a hush to Christmas night,
The songs are still sung out with might
And Santa's toys, a dazzling sight.
The only thing that's changed is me.
It's not a fir with lights I see,
For only God can make a tree --
This is what I see.
And children's eyes can only be
Small windows on eternity.
And so with gifts, and cousins small,
And so with garlands in the hall,
And firelight's shadows on the wall --
God's handiwork, that's all.
Yet in this season of our joy
There are still those who feel a toy
is all that matters -- not The Boy,
Whose praises we should all employ,
Lest man all brotherhood destroy.
Come, take your stand -- decry the whim
That turkeys, gifts, and greetings slim
Define the core -- they are the rim
And but the glossy surface skim
For in our hearts we kneel to Him.
-- Camilla R. Bittle
This beautiful poem speaks to me in so many ways. The most obvious, of course, is looking at Christmas from the viewpoint of one who has trusted Christ as Savior, who has appropriated the free yet costly gift He came to provide.
But there are so many others -- dear memories of childhood Christmases when we "wrote cards, made lists, our cousins came". Even the making of "calendars for kitchen walls" reminds me of school projects where we decorated paper plates and glued on tiny calendars as Christmas gifts for our mothers. I could find a memory in almost every line, I think.
I hope that this lovely poem -- and reading about its author -- has been a blessing to someone today!