“Twas Christmas Eve, the snow fell fast,
Fell through the twilight, dun and gray;
And now a breeze, and now a blast,
The wind went whistling on its way.”— Frank Ruby’s Christmas
So opens one of the best Christmas poems of all time – even though it is not especially well known.
Recited by my Grandmother Lindley to her grandchildren in the 1950s, we transcribed it because we could not find a copy anywhere of “Frank Ruby’s Christmas.”
For years and years, I searched library volumes of poetry without success. I poked around musty old attics, haunted garage sales with books on display, and even contacted the Library of Congress. Then in the 1990s, with the growth of the Internet, I conducted similar searches, using a variety of search engines – with the same result.
A few weeks ago, with Advent season well underway, I started my customary search and voila! The name of the poem appeared on the screen.
It was included in “The Speakers Companion and Popular Reciter,” copyright 1895. The author, Peter Hamilton Myers, 1812-1878, was a lawyer by training, but preferred writing.
The poem is noteworthy for its message and its storytelling. It is about Frank Ruby and his wife and family, poor as church mice and feeling a bit down on Christmas Eve because of their plight and also because their eldest son was lost at sea.
Then, a knock at the door:
“They haste to open, they bring a light.
“An old man bending ’neath a pack,
“Begs food and shelter for the night,
“His white hair streams a down his back.”
The Rubys invite the old man in and, despite their poverty, offer what little they have and a bed by the fire.
In the morning, the young boy and girl leap from their beds, crying out: “Oh father, father come and see what Santa Claus brought me and sis . . Our stocking’s full as full can be, and on the top, see, what is this? ”
The old man is not surprised by the turn of events, of course, because once awakened, he “stands erect in manly grace, tears the white wig from his brow and flings the false beard from his face.”
Edwin the son had returned.
Space won’t allow the reprinting of this heartwarming Christmas story, but if you have access to the Internet, simply Google “Frank Ruby’s Christmas” and read it to your children or grandchildren.
It will be a memorable Christmas present.
Dec. 21, 2016