“Halt! Who goes there?” the sentry’s call
Rose on the midnight air
Above the noises of the camp,
The roll of wheels, the horses’ tramp.
The challenge echoed over all —
“Halt! Who goes there?”
A quaint old figure clothed in white,
He bore a staff of pine,
And ivy-wreath was on his head.
“Advance, O friend,” the sentry said,
“Advance, for this is Christmas Night,
And give the countersign.”
“No sign or countersign have I.
Through many lands I roam
The whole world over far and wide.
To exiles all at Christmastide
From those who love them tenderly
I bring a thought of home.
“From English brook and Scottish burn,
From cold Canadian snows,
From those far lands ye hold most dear
I bring you all a greeting here,
A frond of a New Zealand fern,
A bloom of English rose.
“From faithful wife and loving lass
I bring a wish divine,
For Christmas blessings on your head.”
“I wish you well,” the sentry said,
“But here, alas! you may not pass
Without the countersign.”
He vanished — and the sentry’s tramp
Re-echoed down the line.
It was not till the morning light
The soldiers knew that in the night
Old Santa Claus had come to camp
Without the countersign.