Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Favourite Christmas Poems - Joan Lennon

Do you have a favourite Christmas poem?  I seem to have a different one every year - I'm fickle like that - so here's my favourite for 2017:

Word Needles by Brian Bilston

If you have a favourite Christmas poem, old or new, pop it into the comments below for our delectation.  And may I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year!

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Walking Mountain.


Val Tyler said...

Love this. Happy Christmas.

Katherine Langrish said...

There was a Boy bedded in bracken,
Like to a sleeping snake all curled he lay;
On his thin navel turned this spinning sphere,
Each feeble finger fetched seven suns away.

He was not dropped in good-for-lambing weather,
He took no suck when shook buds sing together,
But he is come in cold-as-workhouse weather,
Poor as a Salford child.

'Carol', by John Short.

Susan Price said...

Love 'Carol'!
Here's an altogether blunter offering. But appropriate for these days, I think.


It was Christmas night in the workhouse
And the paupers was having their dinners.
And the preacher he called from the top of the hall,
"Get down on your knees, you sinners."

And them poor paupers knelt in the cheerless room
On their benches hard and wooden,
And the preacher called in a voice of doom,
"Bring in the Christmas puddin'."

"Put down your heads," says he with a leer,
"Cause I want you all to think
Of the sins of the flesh that has bring us here--
Tobacco and women and drink."

"And I'm telling youse all and I'm telling youse good"--
And his voice took a dangerous edge--
"No one gets to ate the puddin'
Till everyone takes the pledge."

And a chill of doom ran round the room.
You could cut the air with knife.
As each man searched in the depths of his soul
For the sins of his wasted life.

And then them paupers rose as one
And said as bold as brass,
"You can keep your Christmas puddin'
And stick it up your..."

Susan Price said...

Or, the original, that the music hall parody was based on. (My Grandad used to recite the parody.)

The original poem is too long to paste here, but if you're interested, here's the link:

Looking forward to reading all the poems posted!

Katherine Langrish said...

Very funny Sue! :)

Steve Gladwin said...

Do you know, Sue, I heard Eric recite the beginning of that and Ernie stop him so many times, but until now I never knew what he was trying to stop. Turns out I missed a classic!

Susan Price said...

My childhood was full of snatches of half-forgotten music-hall routines (my Grandad was a great lover of music-hall when he was young.)

'Twas Christmas Day in the workhouse,
The snow was raining fast,
And three bald-headed men with wigs on
Went slowly running past.

Don't know any more of that version but the 'snow raining fast' reminds me of most Christmas Days I've known.

Susan Price said...

There's a Christmas poem over at Authors Electric today too: Eddi's Service

Katherine Langrish said...

Ah, I love that one.

Joan Lennon said...

These are great - many thanks! ('Carol' gave me goosebumps!)

Anne Booth said...

Happy Christmas! Thank you for a lovely post! I love the AA Miilne poem about King John's Christmas - and I love the words of 'In the Bleak Midwinter' by Christina Rossetti.

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for all these poems, each with its own festive mood and shivers.
Here's a link to my favourite poem Christmas at Sea by R.L. Stevenson and an article about it too.

Penny Dolan said...

Or here, direct and whole:

Christmas at Sea

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
'All hands to loose top gallant sails,' I heard the captain call.
'By the Lord, she'll never stand it,' our first mate, Jackson, cried.
… 'It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,' he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Katherine Langrish said...

Gosh! Lump in the throat, Penny!

Susan Price said...

Oh gosh, yes! I love Stevenson. Have to admit the line

'By the Lord, she'll never stand it,' our first mate, Jackson, cried

always makes me think of Star Trek's 'The engines'll never take it, cap'n' but that isn't Stevenson's fault.
And King John's Christmas! Thanks for reminding me of that, Anne. I used to love reading it to my brother when he was little. It's funny, but also such a sad portrait of an unhappy lonely child -- and, of course, such children are often 'not good' and grow up to be men who are 'not good men.'
The arrival of the ball always troubled me and Adam, though. We were glad that King John's wish came true -- but surely the ball belongs to one of the children playing outside? If John keeps it, he'll be thought of hardly again.