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megustaleer

Favourite Christmas Poems

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One thing I miss from my job, now I am retired, is choosing the poems I would read as a part of a Christmas Anthology for the elderly residents.

I always included my old favourites, and tried to find new ones (not that they always went down quite as well with the listeners).

 

Currently, I am rather liking

 

The Wicked Fairy At The Manger by U.A. Fanthorpe

 

My gift for the child:

 

No wife, kids, home;

No money sense. Unemployable.

Friends, yes. But the wrong sort –

The workshy, women, wimps,

Petty infringers of the law, persons

With notifiable diseases,

Poll tax collectors, tarts;

The bottom rung.

His end?

I think we’ll make it

Public, prolonged, painful.

 

Right, said the baby. That was roughly

What we had in mind.

 

 

Share your favourite Christmas-themed poems with us.

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Christmas Eve and twelve of the clock

"Now they are all on their knees,"

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.

 

We pictured the meek mild creatures where

The dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.

 

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

"Come; see the oxen kneel

 

In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,"

I would go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.

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I was feeling less than thrilled at the prospect of decorating the house for Christmas, until I heard this poem written, and read by Wendy Cope.

 

I'm glad you 'linked' rather than 'copied' that poem, Meg. Wendy Cope was having a real rant about copyright and use of her poems in Saturday's Guardian!

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It's OK to post a few lines, but if a piece of writing is still under copyright it shouldn't be quoted in its entirety. I have found Christmas Wise online, but as it is a foreign language site (Scandinavian) I can't tell if it is likely to have the requisite permission.

 

The poem (in English) is on this page . Scroll down past the first three.

 

Edit: That link seems to be out of date, try this one (scroll past Jingle Bell Rock ;) )

 2nd edit: both links now seem to be out of date, so try this from You Tube  -

 

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Thanks, Megustaleer.

 

Here are a few verses from one that's out of copyright:

 

It was the Winter wilde,

While the Heav'n-born-childe,

All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;

Nature in aw of him

Had doff't her gawdy trim,

With her great Master so to sympathize:

It was no season then for her

To wanton with the Sun her lusty Paramour.

 

But peacefull was the night

Wherin the Prince of light

His raign of peace upon the earth began:

The Windes with wonder whist,

Smoothly the waters kist,

Whispering new joyes to the milde Ocean,

Who now hath quite forgot to rave,

While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

 

But see the Virgin blest,

Hath laid her Babe to rest.

Time is our tedious Song should here have ending,

Heav'ns youngest teemed Star,

Hath fixt her polisht Car,

Her sleeping Lord with Handmaid Lamp attending:

And all about the Courtly Stable,

Bright-harnest Angels sit in order serviceable.

Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity, by John Milton.

That last word is a typical Milton touch.

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Another favourite by U.A. Fanthorpe:

 

Cat In The Manger

 

In the story, I'm not there.

Ox and Ass, arranged in prayer:

But me? Nowhere.

 

Anti-cat evangelists

How on earth could you have missed

Such an obvious and able

Occupant of any stable?

 

Who excluded mouse and rat?

The harmless necessary cat.

Who snuggled in with the holy pair?

Me. And my purr

 

Matthew, Mark, and Luke and John,

(Who got it wrong,

Who left out the cat)

Remember that,

Wherever He went in this great affair

I was there.

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Probably the best known Christmas poem of them all - I just love it: Christmas by Betjeman. The beginning is funny and lighthearted, and then it just swerves for the last three verses, and always brings a lump to my throat:

 

And is it true? and is it true?

The most tremendous tale of all,

Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,

A Baby in an ox's stall?

The Maker of the stars and sea

Become a Child on earth for me?

 

And is it true? For if it is,

No loving fingers tying strings

Around those tissued fripperies,

The sweet and silly Christmas things,

Bath salts and inexpensive scent

And hideous tie so kindly meant.

 

No love that in a family dwells,

No carolling in frosty air,

Nor all the steeple-shaking bells

Can with this single Truth compare -

That God was Man in Palestine

And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

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And another favourite:

 

Journey Of The Magi by T. S. Eliot

 

'A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.'

And the camels galled, sore-footed,

refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the

terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

 

Then the camel men cursing and

grumbling

And running away, and wanting their

liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the

lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns

unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high

prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all

night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears,

saying

That this was all folly.

 

Then at dawn we came down to a

temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of

vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill

beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped in

away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with

vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for

pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no imformation, and so

we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment

too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say)

satisfactory.

 

All this was a long time ago, I

remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth,

certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had

seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different;

this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like

Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these

Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old

dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their

gods.

I should be glad of another death.

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The time draws near the birth of Christ;

The moon is hid--the night is still;

The Christmas bells from hill to hill

Answer each other in the mist.

 

Four voices of four hamlets round,

From far and near, on mead and moor,

Swell out and fail, as if a door

Were shut between me and the sound.

 

Each voice four changes on the wind,

That now dilate and now decrease,

Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,

Peace and good-will to all mankind.

 

Rise, happy morn! rise, holy morn!

Draw forth the cheerful day from night;

O Father! touch the east, and light

The light that shone when hope was born!

 

Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Just found this one - think it's so warm and soothing.

 

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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My favorite christmas poem,

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all! ”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

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