‘Christmastide’ is a poem written by the American poet H.P. Lovecraft. Though Lovecraft is famous for his weird and horror fiction, there are no such elements in this poem. It’s about the eve of Christmas. In this poem, the poet presents how the nocturnal beauty of Christmas night mesmerizes him. However, Christmastide or Christmastime is a festive season of the liturgical year. Christmastide is identical to Twelvetide or the twelve days of Christmas celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ. It starts on 25th December and lasts till 5th January.
Summary of Christmastide
H.P. Lovecraft begins with the image of the cottage hearth beaming warmly and brightly. On another side of the room, there is a candle that glows gaily. When the poet looks outside at the sky, the stars seem to emit a kinder light above the drifted snow. Staring at the sky, he feels as if there is magic in the night sky that is only meant for gladdening the passing year. Suddenly, the sound from the belfries growing louder gradually, reminds the poet, “Christmastide is here!”
This poem is short but apt in creating the mood of Christmastide. There are a total of two stanzas in the poem each having four lines in it. The poet uses a regular rhyme scheme and it is ABAB. So, the alternative lines rhyme together. As an example, in the first stanza, “bright” rhymes with “light”. And, “glow” rhymes with “snow”. Moreover, the syllable count of each stanza is also regular. The syllable count of each stanza of the poem is 8-6-8-6. The metrical scheme of this poem makes it musical. The overall poem is composed of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter alternatively. There are a few variations here. As an example, “beams warm” is a spondee, and “Down from” is a trochee. However, the rising rhythm of the lines is closely associated with the theme of ‘Christmastide’.
‘Christmastide’ contains several important literary devices that make the poet’s use of imagery more vibrant to the readers. Likewise, in the second line, the poet uses personification. Here, the candles are personified. Thereafter, in “gaily glow” there is a repetition of the “g” sound. It’s an example of alliteration. Moreover, the “kinder light” contains a personal metaphor. Apart from that, the first three lines contain anaphora. The second stanza begins with two instances of personification. Firstly, the poet personifies the sky. Secondly, in the next line, he personifies “the passing year”. In the following line, there is an onomatopoeia and personification as well in “joyous peals”. However, the poem ends with a rhetorical exclamation.
Analysis of Christmastide
The cottage hearth beams warm and bright,
The candles gaily glow;
The stars emit a kinder light
Above the drifted snow.
Lovecraft begins with a cozy image of the cottage in this poem. There is a specific reference to the cottage hearth or fireplace. It beams warmth and brightness all around the room. This image makes everything bright and creates a consonant mood here. Thereafter, the poet refers to the candles’ glow. It is a symbol of hope and positivity. Moreover, the candle glows “gaily”. It seems as if it symbolizes someone’s happy face.
The homely imagery ends here and starts the description of the external ambiance. The poet looks at the stars that emit a “kinder light” above the drifted snow. Here, the stars’ light seems “kinder” to the poet as the festive season has finally come. Hence, the stars are also in this joyous mood. However, the reference to the “drifted snow” on which the light of the stars gets reflected, lits up the overall image of the landscape.
Down from the sky a magic steals
To glad the passing year,
And belfries sing with joyous peals,
For Christmastide is here!
Whereas, in the second stanza of ‘Christmastide’, Lovecraft describes the magical beauty of the night sky during Christmas eve. It looks so beautiful that everything seems like a fairy tale to the poet. Moreover, the poet thinks as if the sky is a magician and tries to make the “passing year” glad. It’s a tribute to the year that has stayed so long with the poet. The sudden shift from the visual imagery to the auditory one changes the mood of the poem a little. Previously, it was of the scenic beauty of the sky. Now, the preeminence of sound grabs the attention of the readers.
The poet can hear the “belfries” singing with “joyous peals”. The belfry is the part of a bell tower or steeple in which bells are placed. Whereas, peal means a loud ringing of a bell or bells. Lastly, the poet connects all the joyous images with the festive season of “Christmastide”. It seems like even nature takes a new shape at Christmastime.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft is known for his horror fiction. However, in ‘Christmastide’, there are not any bleak images that portray a sense of hopelessness. Even it’s a symbolic poem about hope, warmth, joy, and cheerfulness. There are no such things that can dim the mood of the poem. Be it the description of the cottage hearth, the night sky, the drifting snow, or the ringing of the bells, festivity is all around. Apart from that, there is a direct reference to the beginning of Christmas Eve in the poem. Christmastide begins on 24 December at sunset and ends at sunset on 5 January, known as Twelfth Night. However, in this poem, the poet depicts how the beginning of the festive season brings joy to his mind as well as the readers’.
Like ‘Christmastide’, here is a list of a few poems that similarly talk about the beginning of the Christmastide or Christmas Day. One can find similar kinds of themes in the following poems.
- Christmas by John Betjeman – It’s one of the best John Betjeman poems. Here the poet describes the traditions of Christmastime and how they compare to the story of the Nativity of Christ.
- Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Throughout this poem, the poet contrasts Christmas with the idea of the war honestly and memorably.
- Twelve Days of Christmas – This traditional Christmas carol presents several images from the Christian text and the Bible. It’s an optimistic and entertaining carol.
- Love Came Down at Christmas by Christina Rossetti – It’s also a popular Christmas carol and one of the best Christina Rossetti poems. Here, the poet describes, “love”, a symbolic reference to Jesus Christ, coming down from heaven on Christmas.
You can read about the Top 10 Best Christmas Poems here.