As the bright circle of the sun sank beyond the Olympic Mountains, the white river of cloud above me began to turn pinkish-orange. But "pinkish-orange" is a wholly inadequate approximation of that heavenly, heart-catching glow, a not-long-for-this-world glow that lasted no more than a few minutes -- beginning to vanish as soon as it arrived. Its essence was its evanescence. And onward came nearly the longest night of the year.
We are folded all
In a green fable
And we fare
Through a revel
Of wind-tossed oats and barley
Past sickle and flail
To harvest home,
The circles of bread and ale
At the long table.
It is told, the story --
We and earth and sun and corn are one.
Now kings and shepherds have come.
A wintered hovel
Hides a glory
Whiter than snowflake or silver or star.
George Mackay Brown, The Wreck of the Archangel (John Murray 1989).
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), "1930 (Christmas Night)" (1930)
On this clear and cool Christmas Eve, the sunset was a dramatic red and orange spectacle, spread out above the dark, now snow-covered, mountains, the yet darker waters of Puget Sound in the foreground. Lines from John Masefield's "On Eastnor Knoll" came to mind: "the red, lurid wreckage of the sunset/Smoulders in smoky fire, and burns on/The misty hill-tops."
Another short day, another long night. But the houses in the neighborhood, and the trees in the yards, are strung with lights. Christmas. May it never change.
The rain-shafts splintered on me
As despondently I strode;
The twilight gloomed upon me
And bleared the blank high-road.
Each bush gave forth, when blown on
By gusts in shower and shower,
A sigh, as it were sown on
In handfuls by a sower.
A cheerful voice called, nigh me,
"A merry Christmas, friend!" --
There rose a figure by me,
Walking with townward trend,
A sodden tramp's, who, breaking
Into thin song, bore straight
Ahead, direction taking
Toward the Casuals' gate.
Thomas Hardy, Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (Macmillan 1928).
"The Casuals' gate" refers to a gate of the Union House in Dorchester. J. O. Bailey, The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Handbook (University of North Carolina Press 1970), page 581. "In Hardy's time any 'casual' (pauper or tramp) could apply to the police for a ticket, with which he would be admitted for supper, a bed, and breakfast." Ibid.
A Merry Christmas, friends!
Robin Tanner (1904-1988), "Christmas" (1929)