Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Day 2020


It rained when it should have snowed.
When we went to gather holly

the ditches were swimming, we were wet
to the knees, our hands were all jags

and water ran up our sleeves.
There should have been berries

but the sprigs we brought into the house
gleamed like smashed bottle-glass.

Now here I am, in a room that is decked
with the red-berried, waxy-leafed stuff,

and I almost forgot what it's like
to be wet to the skin or longing for snow.

I reach for a book like a doubter
and want it to flare round my hand,

a black letter bush, a glittering shield-wall,
cutting as holly and ice.

---”Holly”, from "Station Island" by Seamus Heaney.

 (h/t to Lance Mannion, who has been posting these evocative Heaney poems...) 

No matter your place, time, or creed, I hope you are enjoying a time of peace for you and yours. 

 I wish I could have said it as well as Charlie Pierce, but I can't, so I'll just add his Christmas wish to take me out:

 "...may you all have the rest and peace of this mid-winter holiday season. May all your whiskey be mellow and may all your lights shine. And may there always be a candle in the window, calling you home, calling you out of the storm, calling all of us home, together, and home."


  1. High wind and rain here. I can relate to that mellow whiskey.

    But no rest and peace in Nashville. Gramma Opal used to recite Longfellows 'Christmas Bells'. Not the joyous one set to music. But the original from when Longfellow's son had a minie ball clip his spine during a Civil War skirmish. Her husband and brother had been WIA in France in 1918. Her own grandfather during the civil war had taken the enlistment bounty then jumped the border to Canada. I recall her berating Grampa for not doing the same. Longfellow's version was a bit dark for little ones, so she waited til they were in bed. a few of the lines:

    "Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
    And with the sound
    The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
    And made forlorn
    The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
    "For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

    A bit melodramatic but perhaps justified given the age and his family misfortune.

  2. Housman's "Easter Hymn" is a little less certain of the final victory, perhaps because it was written after that greater bloodletting of 1914:

    If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
    You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
    Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
    Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
    The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
    Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

    But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
    At the right hand of majesty on high
    You sit, and sitting so remember yet
    Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
    Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
    Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.