Posted on 2008-12-23
'Twas the night before Christmas in Highbury town,
With the lights all a-twinkle and the snow drifting down.
The townsfolk were merry with good Yuletide cheer,
For this midwinter feast near the end of the year.
The snowflakes were pretty, but the weather was cold!
Out in the frigid air, you'd have to be bold,
Up to a challenge at which others would balk,
If you thought this was a good night for taking a walk!
One man at least thinks so -- see, just over there,
Bundled in a thick muffler, showing hardly a hair!
On a Christmas Eve stroll, as the stars shine so brightly
It's none other than Highbury's own Mr. Knightley.
He came out to think; he has a lot on his mind,
A walk often helps him a solution to find.
What could be the cause of his Yuletide dilemma?
None but a certain Miss Woodhouse -- dear Emma!
He's worried that recent events have taken their toll
On her peace of mind and wounded her soul;
Her spirits seem down, she's not what she was,
Before this year's confusion did come to pass.
It started so simply, as Knightly did watch:
When Miss Taylor married, Emma said she made the match!
Next toward Mr. Elton her ideas turned,
But this time matchmaking got her quite burned!
At poor Harriet Smith Elton sniffed and he sneered;
His own hopes were quite different, as it appeared!
Not Miss Smith but Miss Woodhouse he aspired to wed;
Emma's refusal was surprised, but quite firmly said.
Her mortification was so keenly felt,
For Miss Smith's embarrassment she did blame herself.
But she did her best to avoid trouble and strife --
Why, she was even polite to Elton's new wife!
(If you know Mrs. Elton, you know that she ain't
Easy to endure, though you're patient as a saint!
You must have the forbearance of an entire battalion
To put up with her name-dropping and mangled Italian.)
The Elton fiasco was enough to go through,
But there was still more, as Knightley well knew.
Frank Churchill arrived next, he quite turned Emma's head;
A bad influence indeed on all she did and said.
Of the picnic at Box Hill Knightley thought with chagrin,
An awful mess then Emma landed herself in!
To dear old Miss Bates she so rudely did speak,
That the lady hardly left her house for a week.
Then Knightley with Emma was more than irate,
He chastised her behavior, her error he did berate!
"Badly done!" so he said, and strongly he meant it.
But since then his anger he sincerely repented.
Especially since Churchill disappointed Emma, too --
Engaged to Miss Fairfax, and nobody knew!
Emma hadn't said much, but Knightley thought if she'd spoken
That she'd say her heart was quite nearly broken.
Emma always meant well; she was formed of good stuff,
But her good intentions weren't always enough;
Over the years Knightley's guidance often was foiled
By one primary thing -- dear Emma was spoiled!
Smart, pretty and rich, the first lady of town!
Small wonder her ego had so swiftly grown.
Admired by her friends, by her father indulged,
Her pride in herself had swelled 'til it bulged.
He knew all her faults -- had known them for years!
Yet to him one thing was perfectly clear:
He loved her the best of all things in his life,
And he wouldn't be happy until she was his wife.
But how could he ask her after he'd lectured her so?
Could she forgive him? He just didn't know.
Then while his thoughts were on this gloomy tack --
Poof! A snowball hit him square in the back!
To catch his assailant, Knightley spun around quick.
(And on ice and snow, that's quite a neat trick!)
But when he saw, he disbelieved his eyes --
It just couldn't be! Why, what a surprise!
"Mr. Woodhouse?" he queried, still somewhat in shock.
Of this turn of events he couldn't take stock.
"What are you doing, out here in the chill?
Aren't you worried that you'll become ill?"
Mr. Woodhouse walked up, with a spring in his step;
His whole attitude was full of vigor and pep!
No invalid was he, but quite hearty and hale!
Now let us listen as he tells Knightley his tale.
"Knightley, my friend, I must confess a trick
I've played on the whole town -- I'm not ever sick!
It started out small, but now it's got out of hand,
And I sure need your help if it's ever to end.
"After Emma's sister married, it was just us two,
And Emma, I felt, needed something to do.
She was a good housekeeper, and a good little nurse,
So now and then a sniff or a sneeze I'd rehearse.
"I pretended to grow weak, to let my health go bad,
And Emma grew devoted to tending her old Dad.
But now it's too much -- though I'll feel like a louse,
I want to act normal again, and get Emma out of the house!"
Knightly then answered, "Of course I'll help if I can,
But tell me one thing before you reveal your plan --
I know both of us want Emma to be happy,
Will this make her so? Tell me now, sir, be snappy!"
Mr. Woodhouse made answer with a smile and a wink,
"Her happiness is assured, whatever you think!
For I know something of which you seem unaware;
Once you know it too, you won't have a care!
"Why do you think Emma has been in such a mope?
Not because of Frank Churchill, that plausible dope!
No, the one man to whom her heart has always been true
Is now and always, my friend Knightley -- you!
"When you left for London so sudden and swift,
It was like someone had stolen all her Christmas gifts.
Now that you're back, her hope's nigh to burst --
But as the gentleman, it's you who must speak first."
At this news did Knightley's spirits take flight!
Despite the chill it was suddenly a beautiful night.
If Emma's love warmed him, then he'd never be cold!
"But are you sure that Emma doesn't think I'm too old?
"I love her too, you know, quite beyond reason --
And a good time for a proposal is this Christmas season.
While I like your idea, by her word I'll abide --
You may suggest, but Emma will decide."
Woodhouse chuckled and said, "I suppose that'll do,
So now the rest of my plan I'll tell you.
It will be too much shock if all at once I get better,
If it's more gradual for Emma, then it won't upset her.
"So once you two marry, I hope you won't mind
If a home at Hartfield you suddenly find.
I'll start acting stronger, and in no time, my dears,
You can leave me for Donwell in -- let's say, two years?
"Have you supped? Come tonight for this festive Yule!
Now before Emma misses me, I'll get back to my gruel."
Mr. Woodhouse jogged off through the soft-falling snow,
With Knightley strolling behind and watching him go.
Turning his steps toward Hartfield, he mused,
"Things now seem so clear! Earlier I was confused.
I feared Emma thought of us as brother and sister,
But soon she'll be my missus and I'll be her mister."
This just goes to show, if your brain's in a tangle,
That you should take a walk if you need a fresh angle.
One last thought from Knightley, ere he's lost to our sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
If you're feeling nostalgic, the older poems are here:
The 1997 Christmas Poem (P&P)
The 1998 Christmas Poem (Emma)
The 1999 Christmas Poem (Persuasion)
The 2000 Christmas Poem (S&S)
The 2001 Christmas Poem (NA)
The 2002 Christmas Poem (MP)
The 2003 Christmas Poem (DWG Tribute)
The 2004 Christmas Poem (The Villains)
The 2005 Christmas Poem (Mr. Bingley)
The 2006 Christmas Poem (Mrs. Bennet)
The 2007 Christmas Poem (Archiver Tribute)