With such compelling cause to grieve
As daily vexes household peace,
And chains regret to his decease,
How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;

Which brings no more a welcome guest
To enrich the threshold of the night
With shower’d largess of delight
In dance and song and game and jest?

Yet go, and while the holly boughs
Entwine the cold baptismal font,
Make one wreath more for Use and Wont,
That guard the portals of the house;

Old sisters of a day gone by,
Gray nurses, loving nothing new;
Why should they miss their yearly due
Before their time? They too will die.

This canto shows a frequent virtue of Tennyson’s poetic composition: a slight prosiness relieved by concision, offering a kind of wisdom. For example, the reader may have wondered what other family members thought of his heavy grief; here he mentions its threat to household peace. He rhymes guest with jest, because Hallam brought such fun to past Christmases. And he invents the sisters Use and Wont as a way of characterising household tradition. One day they too will be gone but while they are still here, while tradition still lives, let custom be kept.

In the management of grief, custom is often a good companion.

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