Archive for ‘Christmas’

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Joseph, I’m Pregnant by the Holy Ghost by Kilian McDonnell

“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man…
planned to dismiss her quietly.”  —Matthew 1:19

Life was simple before that angel
pushed open the kitchen door,
announced light and trouble, as though
a foe had roiled the bottom of the well
and now the pail brings up only

murky water. I’m chosen for some
terrible grace beyond the well.
After short light long dark,
left to stumble through Sinai

Desert. No manna to gather, no quail
to catch. Nothing. When I tell Joseph
I’m pregnant by the Holy Ghost,
he stares, ox dumb in hurt. I’ve asked

him to believe that I, God’s
Moses-girl, part seas, give Torah. He turns, leaves
without a word. Why should my dearest

love believe? Yahweh’s not fair.
Where is the voice of light? Where
the pillar of fire? My man drops
me cold, as though I were a concubine

dismissed without a drachma for cheating
on her master’s blanket with that
swarthy Roman soldier from the barracks.
Joseph doesn’t expose me; I will not

be stoned. My heart eats Yahweh’s
cinders; I drink the last date wine
gone sour at the dregs.
God does nothing. But I carry life.

From: McDonnell, Kilian, Yahweh’s Other Shoe, 2006, Liturgical Press: Collegeville, Minnesota, pp. 18-19.

Date: 2006

By: Kilian McDonnell (1921- )

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hymn to Saint Nicholas by Godric of Finchale

Saint Nicholas, God’s servant dear,
Build us a hall, shining and clear,
So when we travel from birth to death
And move beyond this earthly breath,
Saint Nicholas, you can lead us there.

From: Williamson, Craig (ed. and transl.), The Complete Old English Poems, 2017, University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 1109.

Date: 12th century (original); 2017 (translation)

By: Godric of Finchale (c1065-1170)

Translated by: Craig Williamson (1943- )

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Annunciation by Samuel Menashe

She bows her head
Submissive, yet
Her downcast glance
Asks the angel, “Why
For this romance,
Do I qualify?”


Date: 2008

By: Samuel Menashe (1925-2011)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Boys of Barr na Sráide by Edward Bernard “Sigerson” Clifford

O the town it climbs the mountain and looks upon the sea
And sleeping time or waking time ’tis there I long to be
To walk again that kindly street, the place I grew a man
With the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

With cudgels stout we roamed about to hunt for the dreoilín.
We searched for birds in every furze from Letter to Dooneen.
We sang for joy beneath the sky; life held no print or plan
And we boys in Barr na Sráide went hunting for the wran.

And when the hills were bleeding and the rifles were aflame
To the rebel homes of Kerry those Saxon strangers came
But the men who dared the Auxies and who fought the Black and Tans
Were the boys in Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

So here’s a toast to them tonight, those lads who laughed with me
By the groves of Carhan River or the slopes of Beenatee
John Dawley and Batt Andy and the Sheehans Con and Dan
And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

But now they toil on foreign soil where they have gone their way
Deep in the heart of London town or over in Broadway
And I am left to sing their deeds and to praise them while I can
Those boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran

And when the wheel of life runs down and when peace comes over me
O lay me down in that old town between the hills and sea
I’ll take my sleep in those green fields the place my life began
Where the boys of Barr na Sráide went hunting for the wran.


Date: ?1976

By: Edward Bernard “Sigerson” Clifford (1913-1985)

Monday, 26 December 2016

Saint Stephen’s Day with the Griffins by Henri Cole

for Janet and Christopher

Half-eagle, half-lion, the fabulous
animal struts, saber-clawed but saintly,
a candlewicked ornament dangling
from our rickety sugar pine. Butternut

pudding in our bellies. His reindeer
and sleigh hurried here and gone—thank God
for us childless folks. Almost:   the lovelocked
Griffins on the sofa, sockfooted, hearing

gas and a kiddy heart in her tummy—
a life more imaginary than real,
though one is dazzled by gold that fills
the egg unbroken. We feed her crumpets

and listen again: The lamb’s a hungry
bugger, even snug from earth’s
imponderable fury. Tomorrow, in a spurt
by jet I’m home. Clumsy as a puppy

I’ll scale the flightstairs into the nosecone,
luggage banging at my sides, enter the egg-
shaped cabin and await the infrared
climb toward space. Tell me one

thing true? If I could count the way
things slip from us: Mother’s fur gloves,
Sunday’s benediction, the dead gone before us,
love’s rambler on the prairie—all displaced

as we buckle in our shuttle,
jetbound on a screaming runway,
gravity pulling at us castaways,
more mammal than bird, subtle

leg-weary griffins made manifest,
arrowing towards home. How do we
ignore it: the attenuated being
of our age, the bittersweet collapse

of dominoes mooned around our pine?
Withered with hatred from his quarter,
Saint Stephen even at death rolled mercifully over
in high holiness. Sonless, wifeless, nine

thousand feet from land, I roll the lozenge
on my tongue, youthful habit for ache
of any kind, parting a survivor (Wait!),
love rescuing me from the fringe.


Date: 1989

By: Henri Cole (1956- )

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Second Advent by Thomas Hill

Not in a humble manger now,
Not of a lowly virgin born,
Announced to simple shepherd swains,
That watch their flocks in the early morn;

Not in the pomp of glory, come,
While throngs of angels hover round,
Arrayed in glittering robes of light,
And moving to the trumpet’s sound;

But in the heart of every man,
O, Jesus, come, and reign therein,
And banish from the human breast
The darkening clouds of guilt and sin.

Come, spread thy glory over earth,
Fill every heart with truth and love,
Till thy whole kingdom here below
Be filled with peace like that above.

For such a glory, when on earth,
Thou prayedst to thy Father, God;
He heareth thee, and soon will spread
Thy glory and thy truth abroad.

Then shall no more by brothers’ hands
The blood of brother men be spilled,
Nor earth’s fair scenes with captives’ tears
And groans of dying slaves be filled.

But every where shall songs of joy
And hymns of praise to God arise:
The true millennial glory then
Shall bless thy waiting followers’ eyes.

From: Hill, Thomas, Christmas, and Poems on Slavery, 1843, 1843, Metcalf, Keith and Nichols: Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 14-16.

Date: 1843

By: Thomas Hill (1818-1891)

Friday, 16 December 2016

A Song Bewailing the Time of Christmas, So Much Decayed in England by Unknown

Christmas is my name, for have I gone, have I gone, have I gone,
Have I gone without regard;
Whereas great men by flocks they be flown to Londonward
Where in pomp and pleasure do waste
That which Christmas had wont to feast,
Houses where music was wonted to ring,
Nothing but bats and owls now do sing.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Christmas bread and beef is turned into stones, into stones, into stones,
Into stones and silken rags.
And Lady Money, it doth sleep, it doth sleep, it doth sleep,
It doth sleep in misers’ bags.
Where many gallants once abound,
Nought but a dog and shepherd is found,
Places where Christmas revels did keep
Are now become habitations for sheep.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Pan, the shepherds’ god, doth deface, doth deface, doth deface,
Doth deface Lady Ceres’ crown;
And tillages doth decay, doth decay, doth decay,
Doth decay in every town;
Landlords their rents so highly enhance
That Piers the ploughman barefoot doth dance,
Farmers that Christmas would entertain
Hath scarcely withal themselves to maintain.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Go to the Protestant, he’ll protest, he’ll protest, he’ll protest,
He will protest and boldly boast;
And to the Puritan, he is so hot, he is so hot, he is so hot,
He is so hot he will burn the roast.
The Catholic good deeds will not scorn,
Nor will he see poor Christmas forlorn,
Since holiness no good deeds will do,
Protestants had best turn Papists too.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Pride and luxury doth devour, doth devour, doth devour,
Doth devour housekeeping quite,
And beggary doth beget, doth beget, doth beget,
Doth beget in many a knight.
Madam, forsooth, in coach must she reel
Although she wear her hose out at heel,
And on her back were that for her weed
That would both me and many other feed,
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Briefly for to end, here I find, here I find, here I find,
Here I find such great vacation
That some great houses do seem to have, seem to have, seem to have,
For to have some great purgation:
With purging pills such effects they have showed
That out of doors their owners they have spewed.
And when Christmas goes by and calls,
Nothing but solitude and naked walls.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Philomel’s cottages are turned into gold, into gold,
Into gold for harboring Joan;
And great men’s houses up for to hold, up for to hold,
Up for to hold, make great men moan;
But in the city they say they do live
Where gold by handfuls away they do give,
And, therefore, thither I purpose to pass,
Hoping at London to find the Golden Ass.
I’ll away, I’ll away, I’ll away, I’ll no longer stay.


Date: c1624

By: Unknown

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Annunciation by Jean Valentine

I saw my soul become flesh     breaking open
the linseed oil breaking over the paper
running down     pouring
no one to catch it     my life breaking open
no one to contain it     my
pelvis thinning out into God.


Date: 2004

By: Jean Valentine (1934- )

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

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.

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

By: Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864-1931)

Translated by: Charles Dealtry Locock (1862-1946)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

On Christmass Day by William Briscoe

Christmass is come; The great Cathedral Feast:
Christmass, the day of Labour, not of Rest,
On which the Word, and Workman of Creation,
Came, not to rest, but work for our Salvation:
He came, according to Prophetick Truth,
To work, to be in labour from His youth:
Descending to a Manger, from his Throne:
He came to do our bus’ness, not his own.

From: Briscoe, William, Verses, Presented to his Masters in the Ward of St. Giles’s Cripplegate, within the Freedom, 2009, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, p. [unnumbered].


Date: 1667

By: William Briscoe (fl. 1667)