Bush, Olivia Ward
|The Yule-Tide Song -- A Christmas Legend|
Away in the mystical land of the Orient, there lived an ancient people who worshipped the Gift of Song, and they also believed that certain souls were chosen to minister to humanity through its power, but, first of all, such souls must have passed through so much of human sorrow, until it glorified their countenance, and none but the Infinite One could read the mystery of that Glory.
At every Yule-tide season, it was their special mission to go forth among the people, even across the great waters, and to wait until the inspiration came upon them, and, wherever they might be, the song would find its way into the hearts of those who were hesitating or faltering in their duty toward their fellowmen, and the words of the song would be sweetly strange to its hearers, but the beauty of its music would be unlike that of any earthly strain, and its force would be so compelling that man would clearly see his path of duty. Then the Singer, his mission accomplished,
It was the Christmas-tide, and the heart of the great American city was beating and throbbing with restless eagerness, as the people hurried to and fro, each, in his own way, preparing for the morrow, the Sacred Day when Heaven's princely Gift, the Christ-Child, was offered human-kind.
The lights of the city gleamed and flashed, revealing too often the sight of misery, as weary, disheartened men, women and half-fed children of the poor, sought shelter from the chilling winds of the night.
From a small, low building, on one of the streets of that city where the endless row of ill-assorted tenement houses told of want and suffering, came the sound of mingled voices, and, a stranger, in passing, paused for a moment to listen, at the same time, catching sight of the word "Welcome" over its narrow doorway.
Unhesitatingly, he entered quietly, and seated himself among a mixed company of men, women and children.
The people gathered there represented that part of humanity who were too poor even to offer the simplest gifts, one to the other, but they had gathered there to hear the comforting words of the silvery-baired
The stranger sat entranced, unmindful of the covert glances of those around him.
It was small wonder that they sought to view him closely, for the expression of his bronze, foreign face, so peaceful in its repose, yet so striking in its clear-cut outlines, seemed to weave around them a spell of enchantment from which they were powerless to withdraw.
Across the aisle from him, sat a young girl of eighteen years, and beside her, a little child looking up into her face, pleading to be taken home with her, for this child's mother and father had passed into the Land of Silence, and their little one knew not where to lay its head.
The girl sat struggling within herself. Should she take this homeless child to her meager abode, when she herself could barely live on the small pittance she received from her daily toil? No she could not. Again the little face looked up into hers, and again she struggled within herself. The child was homeless, friendless. O, what could she do when she herself was so bereft of daily needs!
Behind her sat a woman who had drank from the cup of disappointment and sorrow. These had over-shadowed
The silvery-haired woman had ceased speaking, and drawn by the eager face of the stranger, she courteously addressed him, saying, "Friend, our strangers are always welcome among us. Have you a word of Yule-tide cheer?" And the stranger, rising and moving gracefully forward, answered in tones that thrilled the people into perfect silence, "Nay, I cannot find the word that I would speak, though much I thank you for this kindness to an unknown guest, but, there is a power within me that bids me give to you freely of that for which I came, but I must wait in silence until I shall be bidden to fulfill my mission." He ceased speaking, and stood with uplifted eyes, as if in quest of a divine commission. The people sat in awed silence, never had they seen a face like unto his before! Who was this mysterious stranger, and why stood he thus in this silence, that they could not comprehend?
The woman who had tasted the cup of human sorrow leaned forward and quietly whispered to the girl of eighteen years, "He is inspired, and I feel that when the moment comes, he will give to us his message."
Suddenly, as if in answer to her waiting, the singer
O, the strains of music were passing sweet, unlike that of any earthly strain, and as they looked upon the Singer, they saw his face was glorified with a halo, not of earth. Sweetly the marvellous Song died away, and moving silently forward, the Singer passed out into the night, they knew not whither.
But the song had filled its mission. The silvery-haired woman bowed her head in humble gratitude for the blessings of the hour.
Over the soul of the woman who had tasted human sorrow, came a great wave of peace, and the girl of eighteen years, ceased her struggling, and clasping close to her breast, the friendless child, hurried homeward through the night.
The Gift of Song worshipped by those Ancient People had indeed come to them. The Singer had vanished and according to the beautiful legend, whether or not he came from, or had returned to the Land of the Orient, we know not, we cannot say, we only know that the Singer and the Song had filled their Yule-tide Mission.