From George Meredith, the contemporary of Swinburne and Hardy, better known as the author of Modern Love, this is “Winter Heavens,” from 1888 or thereabouts. It's not about the shortest day or the longest night particularly, but it does speak to the sense of the winter solstice as that moment when darkness is conquered, and light and life and warmth begin to wake.
Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.
It is a night to make the heavens our home
More than the nest whereto apace we strive.
Lengths down our road each fir-tree seems a hive,
In swarms outrushing from the golden comb.
They waken waves of thoughts that burst to foam:
The living throb in me, the dead revive.
Yon mantle clothes us: there, past mortal breath,
Life glistens on the river of the death.
It folds us, flesh and dust; and have we knelt,
Or never knelt, or eyed as kine the springs
Of radiance, the radiance enrings:
And this is the soul’s haven to have felt.