From the Archives: “A Christmas Poem” by Ann Freeman

Black and white photograph of a courtyard, street, and garden in Rome covered in snow, as seen from the roof of a building
Snow in Rome, 1956 (photograph from the American Academy in Rome, Institutional Archive)

Far from home, American Academy Fellows have long turned towards creative means to celebrate the holiday season. One such Fellow was 1958 Rome Prize Fellow Ann Freeman (later Meyvaert), a young medievalist scholar who would become one of the foremost authorities on the Libri Carolini.

With lyrical talent to rival her literary peers, Freeman wove the names of the Academy community into verse. The art historian Howard Hibbard (1958 Fellow) read the poem at the annual Christmas party—another longstanding Academy tradition, usually involving performances by the fellows, gifts for the children, and, of course, dolci. These days the Academy celebrates the Winter Illumination Festival, an event that better reflects the diversity of the Academy community while maintaining the spirit of joyful collaboration and creativity.

In the same spirit, and in remembrance of Freeman and all Rome Prize Fellows throughout the decades, the Institutional Archive is delighted to share “A Christmas Poem” (1956) by Ann Freeman.

Catie Heitz, Archivist

A Christmas Poem

Color scan of a yellowed page with the first half of a poem
Color scan of a yellowed page with the second half of a poem


To Academicians everywhere
A joyful wish and a sanguine prayer
That the holidays find them happy and well –
Especially Laurance and Isabel
May Commendatore and Commendatrice
Be spared. both platitude and cliché
While greeting guests, swarm after swarm,
And may every hand they shake be warm!
A Buon Natale, and a Buona Festa
To our indispensable Principessa
And to all who enliven the Via Masina
Three cheers for our Colonel, a Kiss for our Nina!
To Walker Hancock and Peter Blume
And the spouse of each, a dearth of gloom
And a plenty of pleasure, at this festive season,
And to the Hammonds, joys beyond reason!
May Christmas bring none but happy hours
To Robbs and Elses, Gilmores and Browers,
While the Christmas saint, so hale and hardy
Smiles merrily too on the house of John Ciardi.
A medley of auguries, native and foreign,
To Mr. and Mrs. Robert Penn Warren –
To Pulgram (Ernst) and Kirchmer (Paul)
Fröhliche Weihnachten – also to Sahl
May he no more need his camomilla
But sleep right well – while at the Villa
Rises a chorus of carols true
To gladden the ear of Martinu.
For Haieff and Hollingsworth, airs played on lutes,
For Evro and Billy, a concert of Flutes!
A balsam-scented benison
On Ralph and Fanny Ellison –
Garlands of bay and wreathes of holly
For Dan and Donna, Dimitri and Molly,
And springs of wary mistletoe
For little “Mal di Fegato”!
From a string of sleighbells, a joyous peal
For Ernst and Eithne, Milton and Ceil,
And the rising strains of a Christmas chorale
For Baades and Wineses and Iva and Sal –
Let’s leave no joyful song unsung –
Join in, Tom Dahil! Play on, Mr. Tongue!
With the fleetness of reindeer our wishes they go
To far-away Munich, to ’Stina and Jo,
And on to Africa’s [farthest] strand
To give Al and Lottie a shake of the hand
And speed them back to share our glee –
Meta and Leon, hail to thee!
A Merry Christmas, la balle Hélène,
And a Happy New Year, Figlio di Sven!
Such merriment let none dispel –
Greetings, Irma! Cheers, Zubel!
A great Hurrah! for the house of Zajac
And a sackful of prizes from Santa’s old sleigh-pack!
Raise up a pudding, all aflame
To the honor of the Hoffmans’ name,
And for the Arrowsmiths set handy
Plummy fruitcakes, doused with brandy –
While for Neuerburg (Norman) and Brickbauer (Charlie)
The curses of Scrooge and the moans of old Marley
Are heard but as echoes of the old Christmas tale,
And are drowned out completely in a hearty Wassail!
For both little Willises, Beverley, Rickie
May holly be thornless and sweets no more sticky –
The same to small Jacobs, the same to small Kim:
May the bluff Christmas saint grant all hopes placed in him–
And when all stars are kindled, all candles alight,
Give us all a good Christmas, and all a Good Night!

This poem by Ann Freeman (1926–2008) is shared with the blessing of the Freeman-Meyvaert Family.

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