’Tis Elfinell—a witch’s child,
From holy minster banned….
Again the old glad bells ring out
Through all the Christmas land.
No gift might she receive or give,
Nor kneel to Mary’s child:
She watched from far the joyous troop
That past the Crib defiled;
Far in the shadow of the porch,
Yet even there espied:
“Now, hence away, unhallowed Elf!”
The sacristan did chide.
“Hence, till some witness thou canst bring
Of gift received from thee,
In His dear name, whose birth we sing,
But this shall never be!”
Poor Elfinell—she turned away:
“Though none for me may speak,
Yet there be those may take my gift;
And them I go to seek!”
So, flitting light through lonesome fields
By summer long forgot,
She crossed the valley drifted deep—
The brook in icy grot;
And gained, at last, a still, white wood
All hung with flowers of snow:
There, down she sat, and quaintly called
In tender tones and low.
They heard and came—the doe and fawn,
The squirrel and the hare,
And dwellers shy in earthy homes,
And wanderers of the air!
To these she gave fresh leaves of kale.
To those the soft white bread,
Or filberts smooth, or yellow corn;
So each and all she fed.
She fed them from her hand—she sighed;
“Might you but speak for me,
And say, ye took my Christmas gift,
Then, I the Crib might see!”
At this, those glad, wild creatures join,
And close the child around;
They draw her on, she scarce knows how,
Across the snowy ground!
They crowd with soft, warm, furry touch;
They stoop with frolic wing:
Grown strangely bold, to haunts of men
The elfin child they bring!
They reach the town, the minster door;
The door they straightway pass;
And up the aisle and by the priest
That saith the holy mass.
Nor stay, until they reach the Crib
With all its wreathen greens;
And there above, with eyes of love,
The witch-child looks and leans!
Spake, then, the priest to all his flock:
“Forbid no more this child!
To speak for her, God sendeth these,
His loved ones of the wild!
“’Twas God that made them take her gift,
Our stubborn hearts to shame!
Melt, hearts of ours; and open, hands,
And give in Christ’s dear name.”
Thus, Elfinell with gifts was showered,
Upon a Christmas Day;
The while, beside the altar’s font,
The ban was washed away.
A carven stall the minster shows,
Whereon ye see the priest priest—
The kneeling child—and clustering forms
Of friendly bird and beast.