Christmas in the Elgin Room

British Museum: Early Last Century

" What is the noise that shakes the night,
And seems to soar to the Pole-star height?"
— " Christmas bells,
The watchman tells
Who walks this hall that blears us captives with its blight."

" And what, then, mean such clangs, so clear?"
" — 'Tis said to have been a day of cheer,
And source of grace
To the human race
Long ere their woven sails winged us to exile here.

" We are those whom Christmas overthrew
Some centuries after Pheidias knew
How to shape us
And bedrape us
And to set us in Athena's temple for men's view.

" O it is sad now we are sold —
We gods! for Borean people's gold,
And brought to the gloom
Of this gaunt room
Which sunlight shuns, and sweet Aurore but enters cold.

" For all these bells, would I were still
Radiant as on Athenai's Hill."
— " And I, and I!"
The others sigh,
" Before this Christ was known, and we had men's good will."

Thereat old Helios could but nod,
Throbbed, too, the Ilissus River-god,
And the torsos there
Of deities fair,
Whose limbs were shards beneath some Acropolitan clod:

Demeter too, Poseidon hoar,
Persephone, and many more
Of Zeus' high breed, —
All loth to heed
What the bells sang that night which shook them to the core.

1905 and 1926
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