The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver: Poetry and Carols for the Season | Virtual Performance

Date / Time

  • December 15, 2021
    6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Sponsored by Eleanor and Peter D. Nalle.


  • This is a FREE virtual program held on Zoom. Please check your spam folder for the Zoom link.
  • If you have questions about registration, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on August 4, for members on August 6, and for the general public on August 9.



Join The Rosenbach for a poetic and musical evening this holiday season.  

Edna St. Vincent-Millay’s beloved poem “The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver” weaves a Christmas-eve tale as tragic as it is heartwarming. The verse tells the story of a poor mother determined to find a way to clothe her son for a cold winter, though her only possessions are “a loaf end of rye, / And a harp with a woman’s head / Nobody will buy.” On Christmas Eve night, the magic of the harp answers the mother’s wish—but at a terrible cost. This haunting tale of a mother’s selfless love for her son is reminiscent of classic Celtic legends like those narrated by Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, but underscores a woman’s sacrifice for her child. The Rosenbach holds a rare first edition of the poem in special red wrappers—one of only 15 copies created in 1922.  

This special holiday program, to be broadcast live from the Marianne Moore Room at The Rosenbach, will pair a recitation of Edna St. Vincent-Millay’s complete poem with traditional Christmas carols performed live on Celtic harp. The event will include a special viewing of The Rosenbach’s rare edition of Millay’s work, as well as a discussion of the harp’s symbolism in the poem. Bearing in mind the location of the program—Modernist poet Marianne Moore’s living room, which is part of The Rosenbach’s collection—we will also unravel the implicit messages about gender, class, and motherhood interwoven with Millay’s evocative verse. Join us for this festive and thought-provoking journey into the world of 20th-century American women poets at The Rosenbach.  

(Carols to be performed on harp during the program were arranged by Kim Robertson and published in the books Christmas Lullaby (2007) and Christmas Lullaby, Volume II (2017) by Gourd Music. Arrangements used with permission of the artist. Learn more at and  

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Frontispiece of Edna St. Vincent-Millay, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver (New York: Frank Shay, 1922).  Rosenbach call no. AL2 .M645b.