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Showing posts from December, 2007

A Child's Christmas in Wales

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by Dylan Thomas

























An excerpt from A Child's Christmas in Wales. While sorting my thoughts about Christmas, it hit me: at the family celebration that I have invited to, I will see the same uncles I see every year! And I am one of them.

"Were there Uncles like in our house?"

"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped…

Christmas Oratio

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by W. H. Auden
You can never read too much Auden. And there is an enormous amount to read. Even though Christmas is not the time for academic lectures, for anyone who thinks that I have perhaps gone overboard on Auden, I refer you to Adam Gopnik’s article in the New Yorker: The Double Man

Why Auden is an indispensable poet of our time.














Well, so that is that.
Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once aga…

A Christmas Hymn

by Richard Wilbur
A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine. The child through David’s city
Shall ride in triumph by:
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come. Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God’s love upon the spearhead,
God’s love refused again. But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
In praises of the child
By whose decent among us
The worlds are reconciled.

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

by Jack Gilbert

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton.…

I Hate Incense

By Ikkyu
A master's handiwork cannot be measured But still priests wag their tongues explaining
the "Way" and babbling about "Zen." This old monk has never cared for false piety And my nose wrinkles at the dark smell of
incense before the Buddha.