The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Holly Tree

Words: Robert Southey

Source: Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851).

O reader! hast thou ever stood to see
    The Holly-tree?
The eye that contemplates it well, perceives
    Its glossy leaves
Order'd by an intelligence, so wise
As might confound the Atheist's sophistries.

Below a circling fence its leaves are seen,
    Wrinkled and keen;
No grazing cattle through their prickly round
    Can reach to wound;
But as they grow where nothing is to fear,
Smooth and unarm'd the pointless leaves appear.

I love to view these things with curious eyes,
    And moralize:
And in this wisdom of the Holly-tree
    Can emblems see,
Wherewith perchance to make a pleasant rhyme,
One which may profit in the after-time.

Thus, though abroad perchance I might appear
    Harsh and austere,
To those who on my leisure would intrude
    Reserv'd and rude;
Gentle at home amid my friends I'd be,
Like the high leaves upon the Holly-tree.

And should my youth, as youth is apt, I know,
    Some harshness show,
All vain asperities I day by day
    Would wear away,
Till the smooth temper of my age should be
Like the high leaves upon the Holly-tree.

And as when all the Summer trees are seen
    So bright and green,
The Holly-leaves their fadeless hues display
    Less bright than they;
But when the bare and wintry woods we see,
What then so cheerful as the Holly-tree?

So serious should my youth appear among
    The thoughtless throng;
So would I seem amid the young and gay
    More grave than they;
That in my age as cheerful I might be
As the green winter of the Holly-tree.

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