The women of the WLCB loved Christmas. I mean, they loved Christmas—all twelve days of it, too. One of their most cherished traditions was their annual Twelfth Night celebration in early January, where they threw open the doors to the Club rooms at the Maryland Academy of Sciences building located at 105 W. Franklin St. and presented readings, dramatic performances, music, and refreshments to an appreciative throng.

They wrote about Christmas, too. The first selection included in Parole Femine: The Words and Lives of the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore is a charming novelette by Jane Zacharias, The Newsboys’ Christmas Party, in which the female protagonist, with the help of a kindly newspaper editor, organizes a dinner and party for the ragged but hardworking newsboys of Baltimore.

Here, we share an excerpt of a poem by one of the Club’s most prolific members, Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer. It was one of seven she had planned, based on W. H. G. Kingston’s modernization of Richard Johnston’s Seven Champions of Christendom (1597). As far as we know, only three were published: “St. George and the Dragon” in the April 1880 issue of the children’s magazine St. Nicholas, “St. Patrick” in the March 17, 1888 issue of Harper’s Weekly, and the poem included here, “Saint Anthony,” published in the January 1891 Harper’s Monthly. The publications corresponded to each of the saint’s days for each figure; St. Anthony’s feast day is Jan. 17. (She also published another “saint poem,” “The Legend of Saint Nicholas,” in the December 1886 Harper’s Monthly.)

Latimer may very well have written poems for all seven champions of Christendom. She was called upon repeatedly to read them at WLCB meetings. However, we have not located either publications or manuscript for poems on St. Andrew, St. Denis, St. David, or St. James.

Majolica image of St. Anthony with pig, c. 19th-20th c., Naples.

St. Anthony is the patron saint of domesticated animals and is often depicted with a pig. These animals are at the center of Latimer’s poem, which relates their rescue of two orphan children, Linette and Paul. The poem is a great example of traditional 19th-century poetry. You might enjoy reading it to your children on Christmas Eve.

If you’re interested in reading the entire poem, you can either buy the book or find the original page images from Harper’s Monthly at the WLCB online archive. Enjoy!

Saint Anthony 
A Christmas Eve Ballad


More than eight hundred years ago—
     How changed is the world since then!
Man’s nature remains the same, we know,
Man’s joys and sorrows, man’s weal and woe.
     But how changed are the ways of men!
Who cared in those days for the weak or the poor,
     For the patient dumb beast or the child?
For the wretches whose work-day worth was o’er,
     Or the leper sin-defiled?
Not Baron or Burgher. Our Mother the Church
     Was sole friend to the poor and the old;
She stretched out her arms from the convent gates;
     She gathered them into her fold.

It was Christmas Eve; a snow-storm passed
     O’er the hills o’ertop Vienne.
The flakes fell fast, and a furious blast
Swept over the landscape, while gathering fast
Rose a mist that obscured the hills, and cast
     Deep gloom over gorge and glen.
The women and girls in the low-built town 
Watched the flakes as they hovered down.
     “Our Lady,” said they, “is spinning to-day,
And the fluffs of her wool fly over our land.
Catch one, and should it not melt in your hand,
     It may bring you luck,” they say.

But not long lasted so gay a mood:
For, “Where is my child?” shrieked a mother, aloud.
     “And where is my child?” “And mine?”
Were echoed in chorus by all the crowd
For each had some loved one in mist and cloud 
     Herding the goats or tending the swine.

Soon the church was filled with mothers and wives 
Wresting in prayer for the precious lives
     Bound up in the bundle of life with theirs.
Oh, blessed are prayers when love would fain
Bring solace to sorrow or soothing to pain!
For it is when all human efforts seem vain
     That God strengthens our weakness and answers our prayers.

By-and-by came dropping in
     The dear ones for whom they prayed,
And many a fond caress was given,
And many thanksgivings went up to Heaven
     For rescued man and maid.
Not so many thanks as there had been prayers:
We think lightly of blessings, but magnify cares.

All who had been prayed for were housed and safe
     Ere the curfew rang its call—
All who had been prayed for—not all–-for yet
Out on the mountain-side, cold and wet,
Frightened, bewildered, and shivering, sat 
Two orphan children—little Linette
     And her younger brother Paul.


Deep in a cave the little ones hid, weeping;
     Their swine close huddled near them in a crowd.
Paul, into Linette’s sheltering bosom creeping,
     Bewailed his hunger and the cold aloud.
“Look up! take heart, dear Paul!” she answered, brightly.
     “Erelong I’m sure we’ll safely reach the town.”
And here she chafed his aching feet, and tightly 
     Wrapped them more closely in her tattered gown.

“And listen, Paul (for I must keep on praying),
     For the far tinkle or the convent bell.
I heard one day a Reverend Father saying
     That good Saint Anthony loves swine-herds well,
“That all his life he cherished living creatures.
     He sent his holy relics to our town.
You know, Paul, how he looks, how kind his features,
     And how the pig peeps out beneath his gown.

“Take courage! I am here. Keep close beside me.
     Dear God, take pity upon Paul and me!
Paul has but me to save or help him. Guide me!
     For we are orphans. We have only Thee.”
So she knelt, praying—praying, but still trying
     With words of love Paul’s courage to uphold,
Who all the while she spoke sat softly crying,
     And growing drowsier in the biting cold.

“Paul, it is Christmas Eve, I now remember;
     Perhaps our pigs may speak to us,” she said.
“They say beasts talk on this night in December,
     When Jesus lay a babe in cattle shed.
“Oh Paul suppose it’s true! Our swine might tell us
     How to Saint Anthony’s to find our way.
We’ll tell the Reverend Fathers what befell us;
     I know they will not turn Christ’s waifs away.

“Father—our only Father; we’ve no other—
     Hear us and help us. Other help we’ve none.
Be good to us, because we have no mother.
     Save Paul! save me! I can’t leave Paul alone.”
And so she prayed, most piteously calling
     For help to Him who she believed could save;
But as she prayed, faster the flakes kept falling,
     And dark, dark night closed round them in the cave.

Her voice grew faint. It rallied, then grew weaker,
     But the brave heart to the last moment prayed;
When little Paul grew drowsier and the speaker
     Grew the more earnest as she grew afraid.
At last she ceased. Were both the children sleeping
     That sleep to which no work-day walking comes?
Would they awake still orphans spent with weeping?
     Or, angel tended, awake in heavenly homes?

Nay, suddenly the cave grew brighter, larger;
     Their tearful, wondering eyes grew fixed and big. 
Five creatures entered it—a gallant charger,
     Two lions, and a raven, and a pig.
They had no fear of lions, for Paul thought them
     Great, warm, soft cats. He seized their mighty paws,
Lifted their tawny manes, and smiling, caught them
     By the huge beards dependent from their jaws.

The lions stooped and licked the children’s faces,
     The life returned that had so nearly fled;
And when revived by warmth, with queer grimaces,
     The raven dropped on them a loaf of bread.
They ate. Soft smiles lit up Linette’s pale features;
     She thanked the God who sent them help in need;
And at His holy name the reverent creatures 
     Bowed their proud crests and thus outspake the steed:

“Leave every hundred years,” he said, “is given
     To us one hour on Christmas Eve to speak,
And do, in honor of our saint in heaven,
     One deed of kindness to the poor or weak.
“Mount on my back. The bells will soon give warning
     We must depart. Our moments fleet away.
All children should be happy Christmas morning;
     The Saviour’s Birthday is the Children’s Day.

“Paul, take this little pig—’tis lame and weakly—
     And hug it close; its warmth may warm you too.
Remember how the marble saint smiles meekly 
     Down on his pig and think he smiles on you.”


Down the steep hill, half frightened still,
The children rode the horse;
The raven fluttered the flakes away;
The lions slowly broke the way
Down to the rocky gorge where lay 
Saint Anthony’s Convent, lone and gray;
But a struggling moonbeam cast a ray
Of light on its tower cross,
And lit up its gold till it shone afar,
And Linette thought it Bethlehem star.

It was Christmas Eve, as I said, and late
When they reached St. Anthony’s Convent gate.
Within the chapel was warmth and light 
Such as befitted a Christmas night;
But every Brother was in his cell
Waiting the sound of the midnight bell.
Not one of them guessed, we may well believe. 
How their chapel was filled on that Christmas Eve.

Over the altar, clear and bright,
Saint Anthony stood in the Christmas light.
With hand outstretched he signed the cross
O’er children and lions, pig, raven, and horse;
And then he slowly faded away,
Like the lingering light of a dying day.

In the next three sections, several of the animals–the horse, the raven, and the lions, in turn–tell the children about their relationship with Saint Anthony. We pick up with the last to speak.


Said little Paul, the small white pig caressing,
     As close he hugged it fondly to his breast:
“What did you do to bring the Saint a blessing?
     They say he loved you more than all the rest.”
“Nay,” said the pig, “I only gave him pleasure.
     What did you think a little pig could do?
I was his link to earth, his one sole treasure,
     And that he loved me best of all is true.
“’Tis what we are, not what we do for others,
     That makes us dear to those with whom we live;
And that is nature’s reason why fond mothers
     Raptures of love to helpless infants give.

“The good Saint found me one day almost dying
     Upon the burning sands. He picked me up;
He bore me home, in his own bosom lying;
     I shared his food, his shelter, and his cup.
“I never grew, was always lame and ailing;
     For this he loved me more I could discern.
And how I loved him! Words are unavailing 
     To tell the love I gave to him in return.

“His last caress to me was faintly given;
     For I was closely nestled at his side.
Then his worn hands he clasped in prayer to Heaven.
     The angels came from him. And so he died.
“Men came. They found us. Me they cast forth roughly;
     Called me unclean, unholy and abhorred.
Said it was shame to see me there and gruffly
     Chased me away from my dear friend and lord.

“They buried him close of day. They cleft him
     A tomb in solid rock and rolled a stone
Before it. Then they went away and left him
     Alone with God. But I was all alone.

“I crept back to the cruel stone which shut me
     From the dear friend I had forever lost,
For those cold-hearted men refused to let me 
     Lie by his side, a few brief hours at most.
“As I lay dying, ere my life departed.
     A voice that with sweet music seemed to blend
Spake thus to me: ‘Thou shalt no more be parted,
     Fond, faithful creature, from thy saintly friend.
“‘Know that in art thou shalt be found forever
     (Whether the artist work in stone or paint)
Beside Saint Anthony. No hand shall sever 
     His faithful pig from the dumb creatures’ Saint.’”


Here the pig broke off his story.
     Over town and glen and hill
Rang the Christmas bells out. Glory!
     Glory! Glory! Peace—good-will!
And the monks, in long procession,
     Torches waving, banners spread,
Filled into the Convent chapel
     With their Abbot at their head.
As he neared the light altar,
     “What is here?” the Abbot cried;
For he saw two lonely children
     Sleeping softly side by side.
And he added as the others 
     Gathered round Linette and Paul:

“They are Christmas gifts, my brothers,
     That our Saint has sent us all.
In a vision late I saw him,
     And he said: ‘Whilst I approve
All your zeal, one thing is lacking,
     Some frail living thing to love.
Such a gift, bestowed by Heaven,
     Will your Convent soon receive.
Look for it before the altar
     In your chapel Christmas Eve!”

“Glory! glory!” sang the Fathers.
     “Blessed children, they shall be
No more orphans. We will call them
     Children of Saint Anthony!”
“Glory! glory!” sang the children.
     “Glory!” heavenly angels sang.
Glory! glory! from each belfry
     Christmas bells in chorus rang.
Glory! Glory! Let all creatures 
     Join in hope the Christmas strain,
Longing for that glorious Easter
     When the Lord will come again;
For which, till then, all creation 
     Travaileth awhile in pain.

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