A Poor Poet’s Christmas

 

A Poor Poet’s Christmas         (with apologies to Clare and Bloomfield)

 

We sit around the fireside and call out merry oaths

Until there come the players in, plucking music from their throats.

With fiddles, horns and pipes they join in olden song

Of maids and lords and stable-lads, of all their rights and wrongs

Which to this day warn youth and child that behind each golden door

May lie a heart as black or red as beats inside the poor’.

 

The sack and beer are passed around and tatties and pudding too

Until our voices burst the door and raucous is the night.

‘Til cows and chucks bemoan the light that brakes their stalls

And e’en the moon forestalls the dawn to keep the sight

Of merry players and happy fools

Take rest from blistering tools

On this our Christmas night.

 

JJS

 

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Christmas: Excerpt from ‘The Shepherds Calender’

excerpt from The Shepherds Calender,      John Clare 1793 – 1864

 

Christmas is come, and every hearth

Makes room to give him welcome now.

E’en want will dry its tears in mirth

And crown him wi’ a holly bough,

Though tramping ‘neath a winter sky

O’er snow track paths and rimy stiles;

The huswife sets her spinning by

And bids him welcome wi’ her smiles.

Each house is swept the day before

And windows stuck wi’ evergreens,

The snow is bosomed from the door

And comfort crowns the cottage scenes,

Gilt holly wi’ its thorny pricks

And yew and box wi’ berries small,

These deck the unused candlesticks

And pictures hanging by the wall.

Neighbours resume their annual cheer,

Wishing wi’ smiles and spirits high

Glad Christmas and a happy year

To every morning passer-by,John Clare lifesize statue at his cottage in Helpston

Milk maids their Christmas journeys go

Accompanied wi’ favoured swain,

And children pace the crumping snow

To taste their granny’s cake again.

 

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Christmas 2017

The Gypsy                           Edward Thomas

A fortnight before Christmas gypsies were everywhere:

Vans were drawn up on wastes, women trailed to the fair.

“My gentleman,” said one, “You’ve got a lucky face.”

“And you’ve a luckier one.” I thought, “if such a grace

And impudence in rags are lucky.” “Give a penny

For the poor baby’s sake.”  “Indeed I have not any

Unless you can give change for a sovereign, my dear.”

“Then just half a pipeful of tobacco can you spare?”

I gave it.  With that much victory she laughed content.

I should have given more, but off and away she went

With her baby and her pink sham flowers to rejoin

The rest before I could translate to its proper coin

Gratitude for her grace.  And I paid nothing then,

As I pay nothing now with the dipping of my pen

For her brother’s music when he drummed the tambourine

And stamped his feet, which made the workmen passing grin,

While his mouth-organ changed to a rascally Bacchanal dance

“Over the hills and far away.”  This and his glance

Outlasted all the fair, farmer and auctioneer,

Cheap-jack, balloon-man, drover with crooked stick, and steer,

Pig, turkey, goose and duck, Christmas Corpses to be.

Not even the kneeling ox had eyes like Romany.

That night he peopled for me the hollow wooded land,

More dark and wild than stormiest heavens, that I

searched and scanned

Like a ghost new-arrived.  The gradations of the dark

Were like an underworld of death, but for the spark

In the Gypsy boy’s black eyes as he played and stamped his tune,

“Over the hills and far away,” and a crescent moon.

………………………….

Mistletoe                   Walter De La Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

One last candle burning low,

All the sleepy dancers gone,

Just one candle burning on,

Shadows lurking everywhere:

Some one came, and kissed me there.

 

Tired I was; my head would go

Nodding under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,

Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,

Stooped in the still and shadowy air

Lips unseen – and kissed me there.

 

……………………………………

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A Christmas Day poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring Out , Wild Bells                                      by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,bluebells
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,dwarf-bellflower-
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

‘Twas the Morn before Christmas

”Twas the morn before Christmas
and the women were womanning the tills
at the supermarket on the chilly edge of town.

All round the store were festive sales and tinselled aisles
and trolleys that glittered and groaned
as the couples strolled in last minute chance
to garner a Christmas home.

Many a man was there that time, list in hand,
alone, pushing a trolley in that strange land
where prizes lay hidden midst confusing colours
and subtle variety which his manuscript failed to match.
Yet he knew.  His instinct unerringly helped him grasp
the not-quite batch of biscuit or the better value bottle, the bigger size
one that didn’t quite fit the cupboard it was destined for.
And yet the mystery of getting it right spurred them on.
Item tick
Item tick
Item tick.
Between each gap the trolley rushed and shaved a second here,
a corner there,
a short cut from cheese to International Cuisine gave pause enough to
catch a breath and scope the signs to soft drinks and beers.
The search was nearly done, the hunt was on, the race almost won.
At the cross-aisle chicane, ‘the other man was to blame!’
Ignore the bump, smile and nod in unison and on
for the final accolade of cocktail cherries and ditto sticks.
At last, a final twist of fate, the deed was done with help from a fairy with antlers on
ss she beeped and trilled at the winning post.

And out, to the car, the open park where the wind was wild and the air was free.
Yes, dear reader, that trolley was me!

 

Apologies to…. everyone, ………. and best wishes for Christmas   jJS

Taste of Christmas Future

Taste of Christmas Future                            JJS      18Dec2015
I look out and swallow back the nostalgia
that rises as the shadow of the moon casts
it’s bleakness over the scene.
Clouds swirl like ancient whirlpools with the last glimpse of the sun
reflecting into the depths of the earth below the slow-mo drifts
and I too reflect as the shadows deepen before my eyes.
The scene, as grey as used snow,
a dusty surface shrinking to the narrow horizon
as if foreshortened by my reality.
The egg-shell domes, corrugated, wrinkled with taunting marks,
sit bleakly waiting, inhabiting an almost empty space.

This home, my hearth, no longer valid as a place
and yet from here we wait on mystery, await a face
that somehow sets the spirit free
while the Earth draws us with its sapphire blues of
ever-changing shades.
Those muddled waves of land that crease with mountainside,
the despoiled desert hands that creep into the fertile greenery
of water-lines and estuary but also glint, reflecting the solar miles of viticulture.
And the black cities that burst out at night like shards of radiation,
their streams of light the synapse of a sentient world.

So I wait, we wait, for the promised gifts of life, long delayed.
I am watching for the last star to come our way,
a burning arc to split the clouds,
cleave the grey mass that storms over half our world.

I look down and swallow back the nostalgia
as the curling fingers soften my hand,
softly pull and seek a thumb to suckle on.
The new-baby eyes reassure me, protect me as we wait,
as all around me wait,
for the first colony ship to Mars.

Tastes of Christmas Present

10Dec2015          J.J.S.

Nero’s

i

Gentle
light flute, slow.
Bass between the beat,
counterpoint to lead, repeat.
Fade flute for bass to counterpoint
and softly run, realigned flute and bass.
Soft key piano, counterpoint chords that chase
each other gently, now piano high with beating
fine-fingered bass and rested flute.  Run piano,
gently through the keys to allow the space
between to be filled with fluted air again.
Fade piano, rest bass,
last hanging note.

Finis

ii

Have you ever thought
About the world in terms of
Presence,
Particles,
Yesterday?

Certainly the best and worst verse
have stuck since rhyme began, and always will
remain in the mind of the beholder,
insisting that their niggling lines,
surreptitiously laying down a course
to run with or from,
might just
amass a certain
Sense.

iii

Carol ran out across the square,
her heels tapping tunefully on the echo-frozen slabs.
She left the sparkling holly-wreathed door
and the mellow sounds within while
PC Rapper and his melting crew stood by the step
their noses dripping and white suits shiny wet.

Across the way, across the square, by the door, the alcove niche,
sat a shadow, dour, poor, ignored by the nouveau-riche
but Carol in her Christmas guise ran out in dress of scarlet cotton
thrust into his hand a glass of wine, turned, skidded, slipped.
Glass forgotten, the man jumped up and saved that Carol,
helped her, broken-heeled, across square of squares,
passed the crying, melting crew and through the sparkling holly-door.
Inside, greeted with a raucous cheer, Carol with fixed smile and reddened face
bent and straightened her strap and lace.
Looked up and round at the laughing crowd, suddenly ashamed of them,
while at the door the unkempt waited, gently bowed as she wavered thanks
and turned and left and walked away, across the square, towards his niche.

And now she tells this story every year as bells ring out on Christmas Day.

sleeping_town_208369

 

Apologies if there really is a PC Rapper!

pc  = politically correct

J Johnson Smith