Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Holiday Pageant at Home (1901)

“A few days before Christmas…”
…five childrens’ furrowed faces break to grins.
They set aside their books and magazines
And greet the man of means who sired them;
The man whose wealth of festive cheer inspires them
To learn the lines of pageant script their mother’s writ.

“Christmas Eve—The Prologue…”
…in which, in matching white, the girls duet.
At left their parents primly sit, and
gently praise each poorly practiced pageant step,
each ode half-hearted—oh, they would so envy me,
These parents—forced to hear what I but see.

“The Play…”
…is mostly pantomimed domestic fray:
A son and daughter, accoutered like their
Mother and father, dress down their sister.
Tapping fingers in her face in mock debase
‘til littlest brother drives them off with knife
And gun—I’m guessing each a phoney one.
It’s hard to tell the difference, from this distance,
‘tween a toy gun and a real one, and
I can’t afford a closer look at either.

“The Author’s Reward…”
…the performance ended, the children bedded,
Father takes his author bride in-hand; with
Victorian decorum, grants her kiss;
Spawns her grin, a touch of cheeks; a blushing.
They murmur, tenderly.
Though like the childs’
tuneless renderings it is, to me, Inaudible.
Mute as an empty box or a cold bed;
As soundless as the Ghost of Poverty,
Who, through this froze and gilded window, peers.
Apprehending richness nestled near:
The spoils of another’s fortunate year.

Where to find A Holiday Pageant at Home:
This five-minute short is the first selection on Kino Video’s A Christmas Past, a DVD that also includes films by D.W. Griffith and Edwin S. Porter.


  1. Beautiful, and quite moving.

    May the Ghost of Poverty stay far from your window, Chris. ^_^

  2. A most enjoyable poetic summary of this antique little gem. :-)
    I wish I could find some information on this film, why it was made, for whom, where and how it was discovered. I have the dvd, but there seems to be little documentary information beyond "Producer Unknown." Well, maybe that information is best left as an antique mystery, too.

  3. Thanks. That DVD is strange in a lot of ways--I have said, and maintain, that it has the creepiest music in the history of DVD menu music.

  4. I usually prefer scores that are along the lines of an accompaniment an audience at the time would have heard. But sometimes the avant-garde stuff works. It somehow *kind* of works - in an austere and creepy way - with the Holiday Pageant. I'm less sure about some of the others on the disk. The dvd case says the music "beautifully enhances the delicate shadings of each of these rare and fascinating treasures." Hmmmm.... :-)