Saturday 18 December 2021

Storm and Balm

 First, I must apologise for the lack of blogging activity over the past week or so. The reasons are not far to seek...
  Back when I was a working man, I fondly imagined that by retiring I would escape the relentless pre-Christmas workstorm that was an inevitable feature of my line of work (and no, I wasn't a department-store Santa). Little did I realise then that the domestic pre-Christmas workstorm can blow just as fiercely as the work one, especially when complicated by much toing and froing to and fro Lichfield, and such matters as my continuing unshakable 'supercold', and a broken-down boiler depriving the house of heating and hot water (fixed now, I'm glad to say). My pre-Christmas mood is, alas, no more festive than it was in my working days, and I look on aghast yet again at the unfolding horror of Xmas (X for Xcess), that frenzy of getting and spending whose spirit seems so entirely divorced from that of Christmas itself, the religious festival that will begin on Christmas Day. I am sure, by the way, that this year's bombardment of ear-bleedingly awful 'festive' 'music' has been louder and more relentless than ever, with yet more emphasis placed on the most unbearable songs, even the most unbearable cover versions of the most unbearable songs. Or is that just me?
  Anyway, happily, Christmas – the real Christmas – is coming, and here is a little balm for the spirit – a poem, a simple hymn without music, to remind us of its realities. Richard Wilbur takes his cue not from the Nativity story itself but from Luke's account of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem...

          A Christmas Hymn

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. - St. Luke XIX.39-40

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

This child through David’s city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.


  1. No Nige, it is not just you suffering under the seemingly relentless tsunami of 'music' designed, perhaps in a laboratory in Guangdong Province, not to bring us a fleeting moment of pleasure, or even to ram-home the message of xmas with a small 'x', but to extract, in short order, money from our contactless cards and into the account of whichever 'boutique' you had innocently wandered into. But I do have a solution. I repair with all speed to my beachside nest here in La La Land, and find the Harold Dark version of 'In The Bleak Mid-Winter' from 1909, by Kings College by the Cam. This always does the trick, and peace on Earth is restored.

  2. Oh lord yes – In the Bleak Midwinter. Always undoes me, especially when played by the Salvation Army brass band that I usually encounter at this time of year. But not this year, alas.