Monday, December 24, 2018

"A Merry Christmas, Friend!"

At sunset, on nearly the shortest day of the year, I walked homeward through green, open fields, a row of bare big-leaf maples a few hundred yards off to the left.  A straight, narrow, shallow river of white cirrus cloud arched overhead from the far southeast corner of the horizon to the far northwest corner of the horizon, disappearing somewhere into Canada.  Or perhaps into the Pacific.

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.

     Christmas Poem

We are folded all
In a green fable
And we fare
From early
Plough-and-daffodil sun
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)


Anonymous said...

A Merry Christmas to you too and thank you for all the poetry and beautiful paintings this year. Much appreciated. Christmas Day is ending where I live down under. It’s been a lovely quiet, warm day! I hope your day is a joyful one. With best wishes Ann

d.a. woolums said...

Merry Christmas Stephen from a constant but quiet reader.

Maggie Turner said...

Merry Christmas!

Damian said...

Merry Christmas to you, Stephen, and best wishes for the upcoming year!

Stephen Pentz said...

Ann: Thank you very much for the kind words, and for the holiday greetings. Thank you for visiting again.

Merry Christmas to you as well! (As you bask in summer.) And all the best in the New Year.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Woolums: Thank you very much. It's nice to hear from you again. I greatly appreciate your long-time presence here, and I hope that you will keep returning. Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the coming year.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms. Turner: Thank you very much. Thank you for stopping by again, and I hope you'll return in the coming year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Stephen Pentz said...

Damian: Thank you for your thoughts, and for stopping by again. I hope you have had a nice Christmas, and I wish you all the best in the New Year.

Maggie Emm said...

Happy Christmas Stephen! That George Mackay Brown poem is wonderful.Wishing you health and happiness in 2019, and more wonderful posts please!

Stephen Pentz said...

Maggie Emm: Thank you very much for your kind words.

Brown's "Christmas Poem" is lovely, isn't it? It is one of my favorite Christmas poems. He wrote a number of Christmas poems that capture wonderfully the light and the darkness of the season (the conjunction of Christmas and the solstice).

Merry Christmas (belatedly) to you as well, and a Happy New Year!

Tim Guirl said...

Mr Pentz,

A Merry Christmas to you and your readers. And may the New Year 2019 bring joy and peace to each of you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Guirl: A belated Merry Christmas to you, and best wishes in the coming year. Thank you for all of your visits and comments here over the years, which I greatly appreciate.