For the last two years I have written a poem for Christmas so here’s this year’s in what is becoming a bit of a tradition for me. As Christmas poems have a mixed history I’ve found, I did a bit of research this time and read a few of the notable ones, as well as Ms. Duffy’s latest addition to the ‘canon’. Milton, Tennyson, Betjeman, Dickinson, Eliot, McNiece, everybody has written Christmas poems it turns out and of wildly different styles and tones. Generally the earlier ones tend to be dour and severe calls to remember Jesus Christ and forsake the wanton revelry for sober reflections of our souls, whereas latterly they become misty eyed reveries for an almost entirely fictitious or at least nostalgic past.
My last two were very much half and half. One was a sad recollection on how I have grown up and how different Christmas is to me now, the other more of an abstract pondering on what christmas is and what it really means. So for this one I wanted to do something different, as Robin Williams said “we must constantly look at things in a different way”. My favourite Christmas poem is by one of my least favourite writers, Thomas Hardy, entitled ‘The Oxen‘. It falls into the former category of dour calls to worship but is done in a very oblique way. More than anything it is a vignette, at little snapshot, putting one tiny element of the nativity and the (then) present day under a microscope. As such, I nicked this idea and wrote this poem. I hope you like it.
There is none so dead, so still
As that Winter’s night. None awake
and snow let silt to the ground, a chill
White plain, a blank marshmallow lake
When your eyes break cover and draw
A shadow painting with that white
And bare feet press carpet floors,
A curtain hood unveils the night;
The cold desert with no manger,
The guiding star and her sisters
Shattered on the floor with no danger
of seeing that unspoken father
Arriving to fill stockings, empty
Before sherry, pies and carrots fed
A myth and gave plenty
with a weight at the end of your bed.
And as a special treat here is my improvised rendition of one of my favourite carols:
Merry Christmas everyone!