Santa Claus

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 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 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.

A.B. “Banjo” Paterson – 24 December 1899