Monday, 30 November 2009

Look deep into the flame

Floss at Troc Broc and Recup' has organized A Pause in Advent, which is an initiative where bloggers can publish posts offering their thoughts related to Advent, the pre-Christmas season. Floss has written a piece illustrating the pre-eminence of love and family, reminding us not to forget what is most important about celebrating together, and over on her blog is a list of all the participants, and links to their blogs.

So I thought I would join in and share with you a poem by Charles Causley, which prompts us to think about what and why people are celebrating, and to look through and beyond the tinsel and glitter and presents. I think this poem has a relevance, whatever your spirituality, and whether you celebrate Christmas as a Christian, or as part of the turning of the year, or as a chance to get together with family and friends and celebrate.

Innocent's Song*

Who's that knocking on the window,
Who's that standing at the door,
What are all those presents
Lying on the kitchen floor?

Who is the smiling stranger
With hair as white as gin,
What is he doing with the children?
And who could have let him in?

Why has he rubies on his fingers,
A cold, cold crown on his head,
Why, when he caws his carol,
Does the salty snow run red?

Why does he ferry my fireside
As a spider on a thread,
His fingers made of fuses
And his tongue of gingerbread?

Why does the world before him
Melt in a million suns,
Why do his yellow, yearning eyes
Burn like saffron buns?

Watch where he comes walking
Out of the Christmas flame,
Dancing, double-talking:

Herod is his name.

According to Nicholas Albery in Poem for the Day, Causley said of this poem that he wrote it 'at the time of the Cold War when such phrases as "the peaceful use of atomic energy" rang particularly thin.'

And the poem still resonates today with its unsettling images not only reminding us of the ubiquity of war, and the fragility of peace, but I also think it has something to say about the way that the spirituality of a religious festival can be lost amongst the tawdry consumerism that seems to characterize so much of our Yuletide celebration nowadays.

The light in the dark: is it the returning sun, a spiritual hope, or a million dazzling Christmas lights, consuming electricity as we consume the earth?

As the comedian used to say (and I can't remember which one), may your own particular god go with you, and if Causley is a little too unsettling for such a festive time of year, then read my post below, all about red, the colour of Christmas!

*[Copyright note: I have not been able to find out anything about the copyright of this poem, so I am not sure of the situation regarding this point - I am happy to acknowledge any copyright holders if they would like to make themselves known.]


Lola Nova said...

You have introduced me to a poet I am not familiar with. I will have to seek out and read more. Thank you for sharing.

marigold jam said...

Thanks for sharing this poem with us. We must not forget the reason for Christmas and not be hoodwinked by all the things purporting to be celebrations of the day which are actually nothing of the kind.


jus said...

I do love a post that makes me want to hit the Google search button... thank you too for the clay soil tips. I've passed them onto the spade brigade and am now awaiting my raised garden with baited breath, x

Serenata said...

Wow! You have reminded me how much I enjoy poetry...very thought provoking post. Thank you.

Michela said...

Thank you for sharing this poem!

JuliaB said...

Lovely post Pomona. I couldn't agree more! ... x

Jennifer said...

Great poem, it gets so frustrating sometimes to see all the nonsense associated with the holidays. Here's to a Christmas season based on things that are actually important, rather than pure commercialism.

Gillian said...

I've just found your beautiful blog and am looking forward to exploring it! Yes, it is easy to overlook the true meaning of Advent in all the Christmas shopping/preparations frenzy isn't it. Thanks for the lovely and timely reminder.

elizabethm said...

It was Dave Allen who used to say "And may your God go with you". He was fabulous. I saw him live once and have never forgotten him.
Extraordinary, disturbing and beautiful poem.

Rowan said...

I confess your lovely post about all things red is more in my line of country:) The comedian you are thinking of was Dave Allen, a very amusing Irishman, I used to really enjoy his shows on TV.

Gina said...

Great post and interesting poem. It would do us all good to stop and think a little more at this time of year.

TheMadHouse said...

Ah what a great poem, which signifies ti me that the commericalism of christmas has slipped its way in to a lot of familys life by stealth and misrepresents what christmas is all about in my book. I am a fellow adventer from over at flosses and I really love your blog and look forward to getting to know you a little though the coming week.

Kate said...

Hmm .. It certainly does make you think, that's for sure. I shall re-read the Red post to cheer myself up again.

Kate x

Pipany said...

Well, and you say you have not been profound in your blog. I did not know this causley poem Pomona. A good one to make us think x

Floss said...

Ohh, shiver, shiver. I'd forgotten that one, although I studied it for O Level. It certainly means something, to 15-year olds as much as to adults - very thought provoking.

Charles Causeley turned out to be a family friend of one of my classmates (we were in Devon, he was in Cornwall) and he came to do a reading for us at Christmas time. I think I can remember him reading it that night... The one I really remember was about the sheep and the goats, and he came out all in favour of goats! ('The goat I know will go to heaven, the sheep, I'm not so sure...) and that was 25 years ago! Thanks for getting me thinking again, Pomona.

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

Such deep thought you provoke Pomona... the poem's lyrics harsh yet oh so true.
It is a constant reminder everyday that our focus throughout the Holidays should be family, sharing and Peace.
I am tired at always being referred to as the consumer, the investor, the unemployed, the homeless... are we not simply people.
Susan x

Julia said...

Hello there!

Thank you very much for stopping by my blog - I thoroughly enjoyed reading that poem, its very thought provoking isnt it and I love something that peels beyond the layers of glitz and consumerism!!
Im glad you liked the bunting - its rather fun to make and when time allows, I may be putting some in my little shop so keep a look out!
Im off to read some more posts - its lovely to meet you in blogland today!!

Sending gluwein and mince pies to you!

Julia xxx

Chrissie said...

I love it when we are treated to a bit of gravity from you Pomona - you have such a light touch with it (if you see what I mean!).

andamento said...

Thanks for the Gaskell recomendations, I have asked for North & South for my Christmas and also the DVD for after I've read the book seeing as it got over 100 ***** reviews on Amazon - it completely passed me by at the time. said...

It was Dave Allen I think who used to say that, and I always thought that was wonderful! Such a thoughtful and deep post Pomona, and I enjoyed reading the poem too! suzie. xxx

jennyflower said...

Hmmm, I think for me this Christmas has raised some real issues and left me wondering where the joy is...gosh you have stirred the sludge at the bottom of my brain!

sarah { abeachcottage } said...

what a thought provoking post

I love the poem, though I too hadn't seen it before...


rockinloubylou said...

a chilling little poem, and very apt.

Cottage Garden said...

It was Dave Allan who used to say that. I used to really enjoy his TV shows.
A thought-provoking poem Pomona and not unlike the Betjeman poem that I posted on Monday. It's so easy to get sidetracked into the buy, buy, buy culture that is consumerism and forget the true meaning of the season, whatever our beliefs, the joy of Christmas is in the sentiment and tradition.

Jeanne x


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