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Dear friends, when the eve of Christmas is at hand you will hear through our streets the pleasant cries of those who go about with carts filled with holly and ivy. At every door this cart is welcome. Every cook-maid rushes out to hail it, and is sure to possess berself of an abundance of the beautiful, bright green branches of the holly, and bunches of the wreathing ivy, to decorate her kitchen; every housewife takes care that parlour and sitting apartment shall shine with the emblems of the holy Christmastide

* Each room with ivy-leaves is drest,

And every post with holly," as sung good Master George Withers before he turned Puritan, and took to fighting. Well

, just so would we wish it to be between us and you. We would be the welcome visitants to your Christmas hearths-we would be your social and your spiritual holly and ivy-shining upon you with pleasant, ever-verdant faces, bringing you the good cheer of tale and of song, and lingering with you, on your shelves, and before your eyes, till the new year shall bring you other leata to take our place and then

“ Down with the holly, ivy, and all,

Wherewith ye dressed the Christmas hall." To our thinking, the ivy is one of the loveliest leaf-robes with which the bonntiful hand of Nature has decked our fair world. It would be no inappropriate emblem of the great Christian grace of Charity. See how it creepetb now along the ground, and doth not vaunt itself; and if it raises itself upwards, it is not that it behaveth itself unscemly, but rather, in love and fidelity, clinging to some aged tree, or hoary ruin, to which it bas ministered through the long years that are gone, holding to them in their age and weakness, as it did in their youth and strength_long-suffering, and kind, and loving; hiding and healing all the rents and ravages of time—ever smiling with verdant affection around the withering trunk, or the crumbling stone; enduring all things for the sake of those it loves the storm, and the frost, and the lightning, and the thunderbolt-that it may cover them with its green drapery, and stay thein with its embracing fibres. By some such old ruin do we love to sit and muse at eventide, and call up in the dim light the olden memories of the place and people—the hall, or the cloister

, with the shadows of those who lived and died within tbem, ere yet the green iry crept to love, and comfort, and beautify them in their day of desolation and

Such a ruin as this we know of, with which a legend is connected that we shall tell you. It is one of our famed round towers, and stands at Rattoo, anciently Rath Muighe* tuaiscirt,” or “ The Rath of the Northern Plain," not far from Ardfert, in the county of Kerry. It is covered with ivy and in good preservation, and near it are some ecclesiastical ruins. Our friend Dr. Petrie tells us that, according to the tradition of the country, there were formerly seven churches close to the tower, in the upper story of which a remarkably sweettoned silver bell was placed. In the time of the “troubles" it was thrown for safety into the River Brick, which flows close by. All attempts to recover it have been vain, though it is said occasionally to direct attention to its place of concealment by emitting melancholy tones. Shall we sing to you the thoughts that rose in our mind as we sat one evening by that tower :




I sat by the base of the ivy-robed tower,

In lonely Rath Muighe when the daylight was gone,
And watched till the moonlight fell down in a shower,

Athwart the deep stream that flowed sluggishly on:
I thought of the days when the silver bell, pealing

Aloft in the belfry, invited to prayer ;
When white-vested priests at the altars were kneeling,

And chanting of canons rose sweet on the air.

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The churches, and convents, and cloisters have perished,

And leave scarce a trace of their ruins behind ;
And the bell of the tower, so sacredly cherished,

No more flings its sweet silver tones to the wind.
For the spoiler approached, bringing terror and slaughter,

And troubled the peace of those servants of God;
Then pious ones bore that loved bell to the water,

And blessed it, and plunged it far into the flood.
And lo! as I mused, came the ghostly wind, stealing,

And rustling the ivy-leaves over my head;
Then methought that the voice of that silver bell pealing,

Rose solemn and sad from its water-laved bed.
With each silver sound thronging fancies swept o'er me,

Till past things came back like the spectres of night;
And cloister and convent again rose before me,

And white-vested priests knelt beneath the moon's light.
'Tis thus, when the spoiler would take all that's precious,

That Memory hides each dear image apart ;
And oft in the silence of night, to refresh us,

They well up again from the deeps of the heart.
And solemn yet sweet on our souls comes the feeling,

That loved ones and dead ones are thronging around;
And tones long remembered, just like that bell's pealing,

Float mournfully up from the grave's dark profound ! The ivy - the flexile-footed ivy, as Ovid beautifully phrases it – was, you all know, sacred to Bacchus; and all the Muses, too, were wont to bind their brows with it, and the poet's crowns were wrought of ivy-—" doctarum hederæ præmia frontium." It is meet, then, that the Christmas ivy should bring us good cheer and song. And songs ye shall have, dear friends, for your hearths in December, besides those we have just sung to you ourselves; for we have called upon some of our minstrels to cheer you, as did the waits in the good old times. 'So now sit round the fire, and listen to one of our own poets, Mortimer Collins, who shall describe the month for you in his sweet, melodious numbers

DECEMBER, bleak thy woodlands are-

No merry maidens wander there

With blossoms in their wind-tossed bair,
Till splendour of the evening star
Gleam in the cloudless East


White are thy wolds with sheets of snow,

And ungloved fingers cannot touch

The turt, where they were wont to clutch
Dim April.violets, long ago,
When Spring winds murmured to and fro.
No ripple on the forest-brooks,

No Summer swallow, flashing down

To cool him in the waters brown;
No dreamer over ancient books
Lies idly in moss-paven nooks.
Yet surely hath the circling year,

'Mid many months of greener bough,

No bringer of more joy than thou
Canst yield, when whirling storms are here,
December, month of Christmas cheer.

There, now, you are fairly launched into the wild wintry December, that month that, as Spencer says

“ Hastes to stirre up Winter sterne,
And bids him clayme with rigorous rage his right;

So now he storms with many a sturdy stoure,
So now his blustering blast eche coast doth scoure."

When the two sons of Cymbeline sat in the gloomy cave within the mountains of Wales, with Belarius, Arviragus asks the old man

" When we shall hear
The rain and wind beat, dark December, how,
In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
The freezing hours away ?"

Ahl the question was a poser, and Belarius very wisely avoids answering it. These folk had but little book-learning, and we dare be sworn there was not a much as a song book amongst them. Had they lived in the days of Orlando and Rosalind, then might the old man have answered them cheerfully enough“ sit, sit, and a song.'

Better still, had kind fate cast them upon our own times, they would have all sorts of shilling volumes, and penny periodicals; and upon the first day of that same dark December, the gloom even of the Cambrian cavern would have been penetrated by the light from our own Maga ; and they would have grave discourse, and song, and tale, such as we now offer you, dear reader, in our pages.

Well, there are few pleasanter ways of spending a winter evening than by the fireside all the pleasanter if we have, during the day, been able to enjoy the out-door world; then young and old, man and boy, maid and matron, each takes his or her place in the sweet, bright picture, and so says another of our bards:

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The hearth, the heart of home,
Glows with a welcome warmth as thriftless thought,
Coo'd to the wildwood by the wandering voice
Of Spring* (a golden heritage of hours
Spent by the wayside), now the clearer call
of social instinct heeding turns again
Back to its own fireside. The ruddy glow
That flushes Father Winter's frosty cheek
Bespeaks all bail ! while gathered round his knees
All kindred pleasures meet to give good cheer
Unto the Prodigal.

Set round with joys
The household ring is drawn: unbroken trust
Clasps hands more closely; and divided friends,
Brought face to face, look cunningly askant-
Then shyly through the empty breach between.
Then, one, two, three, away! their bounding hearts
Cleave fast-the faster for the longer leap;
And their free speech makes merry round the past,
As once o'er obstacles they cleared together,
Less airy but more easy. Discontent
Hath now half-holiday : the Christmas sky

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* “Oh, cuckoo! shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering voice?"-Wordsworth.


Shows the true steelly sheen; the crispy road
Feels lively to the foot; the shovelled snow
Hath the old tingling touch ; and the huge hearth
Crackles with hearts of oak. Old times, old times -
Glass kisses glass : old loves, old smiles, old songs,
Waes hael ! waes hael! Was ever roundelay
Of summertide so sweet?

Soon restless youth
Wearies of wond'ring at the reckless feats,
The peerless gallants and the matchless dames
Of forty years ago. White-headed pets
'Scape from the eager sire's relaxed knees.
Prim darlings loose godmother's apron-string,
And edge away demure. The blushful girl,
With needless household pretext, quits her place ;
And the young neighbour, moved to let her pass,
Forgets he might return, and absence-struck,
Halts on the threshold, timing with his own
Her fairy-flitting foot, and to himself
Taking each glance that for the tenth time marks
The perfectness of some especial cate,
Making sweets sweeter. Now around the hearth
Close up the oldsters in a narrowed ring,
Circling the sacred flame: while tale and jest
Join on to jest and tale. So loud, so full,
So glib and gay, hold forth the orators,
You'd say each eloquent hand had moved the mill
That grinds all young again. And auditors,
Fair once, and gentle still, yield due applause,
With tearful merriment and mirthful tears,
As the theme touches on the time their tears
Wept for a nothing, and yet nothing seemed
Aworth their weeping.

Watchful of the glance Of a mild-matron's age-revering eye, The youngsters gather to a group, and taste The sweets of stolen and yet sinless joys. Arch gravity and stifled mirth pursue The slipper's stealthy round, and when it drops, Clap hands for quiet, and with roguish tale Count up the forfeits. Gay the sports proceed, Till the great chamber grows too strait to hold Th' expanding spirits. Following the lead Of some sly stateling, one by one depart The muster'd conclave, till the bounds are broke In order unimpeached. When silence falls Upon the elders, clouds come after rain In Autumn skies :* when, the last fight outfought, The veteran rests on the uneasy bed The hard hand makes itself; when enterprise, Bowled o'er the golden road, is brought to check ; When knotty contests, stoutly struggled through, Bring the poor man to where, some luckless morn, His lawsuit left him, at the fingerpost Of scorn-the end of strife, each tongue is still, And tear-dimmed eyes seem asking, each of each, How meeting thus at the crossroads of care, Can we make merry? Hearken, loud and clear Youth lifts its voice in answer (God in these

* Ecclesiastes, xii. 2.

Hath made those laughter*), and the games go on;
Each has its champions, as the bounding ball,
The plumè shuttlecock and graceful hoop,f
With quick defiance pass from hand to hand,
Coming to go again, and gone to come.
The fathers, and their fathers, stand aside,
Second the strokes, and share in the applause,
And smile, and fold their hands, and for themselves
Draw stakes with fortune.

Pacing to and fro,
Hard by this play of the two ends of life,
Worshipful Wisdom, smooth-lipp'd, broken-voiced,
Shuts up its mouth, and stops its solemn ears,
And shakes its antique head, to be assured
The whirligig around hath left it steady
On its young shoulders. Holding dais high
With its own musings, yet with gracious eye
Looking on the two ages and their toys,
'Signs them a pitiful place below the salt
That savours its own schemes. Anon it stoops
To its own sport-a sport that doth not shame
The more-haste-worse-speed spirit of an age
When the head works for play. It meets its match.
The lists are drawn, new lists of cloth of gold;
The forces ranked, the sign of onset made;
The brain is busy as a battlefield.
Forethought is here, is there, is everywhere
Sets a poor pawn against a crowned king;
Advances, calculates, combines, concludes.
Farewell, fair Chance, who wast the queen of fights !
Thou'st lost whoever win.

In the ingle-nook
Still the deaf uncle, spectacles on nose,
And newspaper on knee, sits on, well pleased.
Now he reads slow, yet turns to read again
Now rubs his eyebrow with the argument:
Now smacks his lips upon a biting jest ;
Cries out at “hear” and “ cheer,” and laughs aloud,
To catch the passing sounds of merriment,
Chime in with “ laughter!” Now he folds the sheet,
And leaning back, looks up, as though “my lord”
Had writ and diagram'd his speculation
Upon the wall above the mistletoe.
Now he upright, turns the smouldering log
Upon the redden'd bars, and, looking round,
Nods at a noisy child, and slaps his knee,
With merry make-believe that he would give
A second Christmas-box to little folk
Who use the first so well.

Now we pronounce this to be a very good picture-very life-like, and genialfull of strong, cheery lights, and tempered with soft shadows_just such a piece as one of the old Dutch masters would bave drawn, with all its hearty socialities; or better still, as our own Maclise would produce, with all the wondrous bar. monies and contrasts of colour and affluences of domestic detail, which make his “Snap-Apple Night” immortal. But enough of songs. Shall we not have a tale-a Christmas tale? Yes, surely, and here comes one

"Who hath a story ready for your ear"

* Genesis, xxi. 6.

† "Les Graces."

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