Black Yule by Erik Axel Karlfeldt

Kindle no lamp on this black night – the air
Stifles us, like a tight-closed register.
No Michael comes with flaming sword to cleave
A path for souls to heaven this Christmas Eve.
No psalms of  hope befit this night of woe,
No choral strain in dulci jubilo.
“Dark, and passed by” –
That is our Yule-tide’s dismal melody.

Like to a foolish virgin hath the world
Wasted its oil – see the wick’s smoke upcurled
The bridegroom tarrieth – no sound of bells
Visit of Kings nor Eastern Star foretells.
On such a night no God may come to birth,
The angel-dreams of children sink to earth:
Till Yule be o’er,
Black imps stand lurking by the garden door.

Hardly the wretched mother may keep warm
‘Gainst her thin breast the child upon her arm;
Her dream this Yule-tide is of Mary’s need –
No room within the inn, no food nor bed.
Minions of Herod go from door to door –
Wrap up thy child in haste, nor tarry more!
“Farewell, depart,”
That be thy matin-song, O weary heart!

But Christ’s day dawns: mid trembling grove and sky
Earth wakens from her dreams of misery;
Earth wakens to the vision of her pain,
As on her forehead strikes the thaw-fed rain,
With wet tears dripping from the icy hand
That waves Good-tidings o’er the dreary land: –
Nay, waves good-bye
To many a mother’s son now risen to die.

From: Atwan, Robert, Dardess, George and Rosenthal, Peggy (eds.), Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry, 1998, Oxford University Press: New York and Oxford, pp. 53-54.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=XmNIAxTIUkYC)

Date: 1917 (original in Swedish); 1929 (translation in English)

By: Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864-1931)

Translated by: Charles Dealtry Locock (1862-1946)

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