Unconventional Christmas Poems

earth-1571179_960_720.jpgWhether or not you celebrate Christmas, you can still indulge in a Christmas poem, especially those written by poets of the past. We find this time of the year to give us a chance to celebrate with family and friends, reflect on the past year, and make some new goals for the next round. We sing cheerful carols, bringing joy to faces. We set up extravagant light displays to make ours homes festive. We go to church to bring some peace to our souls. For others, it becomes a time to lament about what is going on in the real world.

Some of these poets use their Christmas poems to give the audience a deeper meaning; filled with messages of hope, despair and desolate moments.

While America was at war within, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem to express his bleak observations of the world, but ending it with some sense of hope that mankind would find peace.


I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along th’unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


And in despair I bowed my head:

‘There is no peace on earth, ‘ I said

‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.’


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.’


Till, ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Thomas Hardy takes a similar view in his poem “A Christmas Ghost Story” but with a harsher tone. He addresses the sacrifices of war that go unnoticed and questions the petition for peace that religious organizations continue to speak of, for the last 2000 years.



A Christmas Ghost Story  –  Thomas Hardy


South of the Line, inland from far Durban,

A mouldering soldier lies–your countryman.

Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,

And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans

Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know

By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law

Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,

Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?


And what of logic or of truth appears

In tacking ‘Anno Domini’ to the years?

Near twenty-hundred livened thus have hied,

But tarries yet the Cause for which He died.”


“Christmas at Sea” takes the comparison of life on the rugged sea with a jovial Christmas scene. The narrator vividly describes the toils of winter on deck while wishing and regretting leaving his family behind.


Christmas at Sea – Robert Louis Stevenson


The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;

The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;

The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;

And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.


They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;

But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.

We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,

And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.


All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;

All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;

All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,

For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.


We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;

But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:

So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,

And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.


The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;

The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;

The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;

And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.


The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;

For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)

This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,

And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.


O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,

My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;

And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,

Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.


And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,

Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;

And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,

To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.


They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.

‘All hands to loose top gallant sails,’ I heard the captain call.

‘By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,’ our first mate, Jackson, cried.

… ‘It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,’ he replied.


She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,

And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.

As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,

We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.


And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,

As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;

But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,

Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.


2Written by: Donna J. Sanders

Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia, Cardboard Signs, Devour Me and Charcoal Kisses.

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