"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,
An ivy-wreath was on his head.
“Advance, oh friend,” the sentry said,
“Advance, for this is Christmas night,
And give the countersign.”
“No sign nor 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.