Again at Christmas did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess’d the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:
The yule-clog sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.
As in the winters left behind,
Again our ancient games had place,
The mimic picture’s breathing grace,
And dance and song and hoodman-blind.
Who show’d a token of distress?
No single tear, no mark of pain:
O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
O grief, can grief be changed to less?
O last regret, regret can die!
No—mixt with all this mystic frame,
Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.
This is the second of three Christmases mentioned in the poem and used as a structural marker. The calm of this one is put in contrast to the fret of the first. The ‘mimic picture’ is the art of tableau vivant often used for family nativity celebration. The deepening of grief so that it’s ‘tears are dry’ is known to many bereaved people.