Keeping Christmas.

I saw a lady up a court that leads to Drury Lane,
She held her head between her hands, and seemed to be in pain.
She’d two black eyes, a broken nose, and bruises half a score;
She sat and moaned upon a step beside an open door.
“What’s up?” I said; “you seem in grief.” She answered with a sigh,
“We’ve been a-keepin’ Christmas, sir, and Bill has blacked my eye.”

“Your nose is damaged very much—you’ve lost a dozen teeth,
I see your head is sadly cut, your battered hat beneath;
Your face is very wan and white, excepting where it’s black,
And, by the way you twist about, it’s clear you’ve pains that rack.”
“It’s nothin’, sir,” she answered me, with quite an angry frown;
“We’ve been a-keepin’ Christmas up, and Bill has knocked me down.”

Why don’t you seek your little home, and bandage up your head,
And bathe your face, and wash yourself, and lie upon the bed?
You must be cold upon the step, in such a shocking state—
Come, come, poor soul, go home at once, and seek your lawful mate.”
“I can’t go home,” the woman growled, “the landlord’s turned us out—
We’ve been a-keepin’ Christmas, sir—our things is up the spout.”

Well, where’s your husband?” then I said; “his place is by his wife;
He shouldn’t leave you in the streets to risk your precious life.
He’s blacked your eye and cut your head, but still he is your spouse,
And ought at least to remedy the fruits of his carouse.”
“My husband, sir,” the woman sobbed, “in quod he’s got to stop,
He’s been a-keepin’ Christmas, sir, and jumpin’ on a slop.”

“Your children, surely, where are they?—you are not quite alone?
A little boy, or little girl—come, don’t sit there and moan.
Where are your children? What of them? They can’t be drunk at least,
Or overcome, like you and Bill, with this the Church’s feast?”
“I had a child,” the woman cried, “poor little thing—it’s dead—
I’d been a-keepin’ Christmas, sir, and laid on it in bed.”

I left the woman with a coin—it went, no doubt, in gin—
And thought of how this time of joy is made a time of sin;
How homes are ruined, limbs are maimed, and helpless children killed,
While prison cells and workhouse wards with maddened fools are filled.
I thought of Christ’s sweet carnival to heathen rites “demeaned,”
And Christmas made the harvest-time of Drink—hell’s fiercest fiend.


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