Mid-Winter Celebrations and Patrick Kavanagh

I'm shutting down now until the New Year. Christmas/Winter Solstice should be a time of celebration and renewal, but I don't think I've ever experienced a time of such uncertainty and anxiety. Stay safe everyone.  I hope you all have a warm roof over your heads and enough food to eat. I'm going to spend time with a family I love and take comfort in the fact that the world is also beautiful and magical.  Places like this one, on Haida Gwaii, still exist somewhere beyond all the ugliness we're confronted with on the news and in other media.

Photo by Laura Sample, Laura's True North, click here for more. 

One of the Christmas poems I love best is by Patrick Kavanagh - A Christmas Childhood. It brings back memories of my own childhood on a small farm among the wild bogs in the Cumbrian fells.  I had forgotten how good Kavanagh's poem was until someone recently shared it on Facebook. Thank you to that person for reminding me!  I'm sharing it here. 

One side of the potato-pits was white with frost –
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.

The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw –
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me. . .

The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch,
Or any common sight, the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel. . .

I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –
there was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.

Copyright Patrick Kavanagh
to read the full poem please click on this link.


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