irish i may

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 29

Here is something light-hearted, which, given the title, I should have posted on the 26th, but I hate to give a "gripe list" too much prominence.  This year, pre-Christmas, we had to get it straight with our youngest two that Santa did not bring toys that Mom and Dad did not approve of. When I had told them that they were not getting a Wii this year they figured that they would just appeal straight to the Man in Red.  If you click the title to visit the Poetry Foundation page for this poem, you can also click on the right a link to his funny but slightly naughty  "Swimming Ool".

December 26

A BB gun.
A model plane.
A basketball.
A ’lectric train.
A bicycle.
A cowboy hat.
A comic book.
A baseball bat.
A deck of cards.
A science kit.
A racing car.
A catcher’s mitt.
So that’s my list
of everything
that Santa Claus
forgot to bring.

“December 26.” © 2001 by Kenn Nesbitt. Reprinted from The Aliens Have Landed at Our School! (© 2001, 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt) with permission from Meadowbrook Press. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 28

I read today on my "useless Knowledge" widget that henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the very first American to have indoor plumbing.  while that has nothing at all to do with Christmas or poetry, it made me think to post this poem, which you will know as the lovely and well-known Christmas song.  Longfellow was wildly popular both in his day,  and for many decades after his death, but he has since fallen out of vogue.  Shame, really, but I still love this poem, Stanzas four and five you will not recognize, but they give away the poem as having been written during the Civil War.  

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

The Ten Worst Christmas Songs

You probably have you own list of "worst", which I would be delighted to read! These are just the ones that Rob, the kids, and I have been griping about hearing on the radio. So, taking a break from my literary pursuits, here is my list:

10. A Marshmallow World in the Winter-- Having grown up in Florida, I didn't even know what this song was talking about. Even where winters are chilly you are more likely to get " A Mud-Slurpee World" for most of the winter months. 

9. Santa Baby-- I actually like the Eartha Kitt version of this, which is both lighthearted and ironic. But my hubby hates it. Especially in later versions like Madonna and Taylor Swift where the joke is either stale or just plain missed. 

8. Christmas Is... --the Johnny Mathis version. Yuck.

7. Merry Christmas Darling--by the Carpenters. Ditto.

6. Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas -- Does anyone remember the John Denver version of this?  It played on the radio all the time when I was a kid.  It still makes me a little nauseous. 

5. River--by Joni Mitchell.  True meaning of Christmas: be depressed, scorn others' holiday preparations, skate. Not too holly-jolly.

4. Wonderful Christmas Time-- Sounds like it took Sir Paul about 5 minute to write this.  

3. Mary Did you Know? See Luke 1: 26-56.  Yeah, she knew.

2. Last Christmas--The best part about this song is that it encouraged my kids to write their own silly lyrics to the tune:
Last Christmas I gave you my heart
The very next day, you ripped  it apart.
Threw it down and stomped it real flat 
Now you're gonna pay for that.

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus--As my daughter put it, "Am I the only one who thinks that it would NOT be a laugh if my father caught my mother canoodling with some strange costumed man in our living room?"

Feel free to disagree, but also tell me your favorites.  I will post my own list before New Year's, but here is one. Keep being Merry!

Monday, December 27, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 27

I found this in a book of children's poems this evening as I helped my husband clean out the basement: Favorite Poems for Children, edited by Holly Pell McConnaughy.  I found a perfect poem for today ( at least today in the Northeast!) inside.  

Old Winter
By Thomas Noel

Old Winter sad, in snowy clad,
   Is making a doleful din;
But let him howl till he crack his jowl,
   We will not let him in.

Ay, let him lift from the billowy drift
   His hoary, haggard form,
And scowling stand, with his wrinkled hand
   Outstretching to the storm.

And let his weird and sleety beard
   Stream loose upon the blast,
And, rustling, chime to the tinkling rime
   From his bald head falling fast.

Let his baleful breath shed blight and death
   On herb and flower and tree;
And brooks and ponds in crystal bonds
   Bind fast, but what care we?

Let him push at the door—in the chimney roar,
   And rattle the window-pane;
Let him in at us spy with his icicle eye,
   But he shall not entrance gain.

Let him gnaw, forsooth, with his freezing tooth,
   On our roof-tiles, till he tire;
But we care not a whit, as we jovial sit
   Before our blazing fire.

Come, lads, let’s sing, till the rafters ring;
   Come, pass the can about;—
From our snug fire-side this Christmas-tide
   We’ll keep old Winter out.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 26

Merry Second Day of Christmas! For today the lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas hymns, written by Charles Wesley whose Birthday is just a day after mine! He wrote another version of this same poem which you can read here if you are curious.  Year after year we sing this at Midnight Mass and that last verse still chokes me up.

For Christmas Day: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald Angels sing,
Glory to the new-born King,
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinner reconcil’d.
      Hark! the herald Angels sing,
      Glory to the new-born King.

Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With the angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
      Hark! the herald Angels sing,
      Glory to the new-born King.

Christ by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
      Hark! the herald Angels sing,
      Glory to the new-born King.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail, the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as Man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel!
      Hark! the herald Angels sing,
      Glory to the new-born King.

Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
      Hark! the herald Angels sing,
      Glory to the new-born King.

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
      Hark! the herald Angels sing,
      Glory to the new-born King.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 25

Merry Christmas, One and All!

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
      So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
      With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
      And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 24

In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 23

The tree is finally up and decorated, with the little tree skirt made of blue felt that I made years ago when we were still in Baltimore tucked around the base.  Here is a poem just for our pretty tree:

[little tree]

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see          i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look          the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 20

Oh my gracious have I got a lot of poems to post between now and the last day of Christmas! Here is something fun for one of the last shopping days:  

Dear Santa
by Jack Prelutsky

Dear Santa Claus,

Its me again 
reminding you I'm here
I'm making my list easier
and shorter than last year.

I'd like a stack of comic books
A dozen apple pies
A box of chocolate brownies, 
An elephant that flies.

A porpoise for the bathtub,
A dragon for my room.
A robot that does homework 
and can also use a broom.

I'd like a hippopotamus,
A trumpet, and a drum. 
I could use a half a dollar, 
And a million sticks of gum.

Just leave them underneath our tree 
or near our fireplace.
O, you probably won't bring them,
But I'm writing...just in case!

copy-write 1981 Jack Prelutsky
from It's Christmas
illustrated by Marilyn Hafner
Harper Collins, 1981

Sunday, December 19, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 19

Another Chesterton, but who's counting?

A Christmas Carol
by GK Chesterton 

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)
The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Friday, December 17, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 17

Happy Birthday to me... with something short and sweet by Chesterton.

Cradle Song
G K Chesterton

Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child,
Make thee bed, soft, undefiled
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber, kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy does leap
My lips no more can silence keep,
I must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle song.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 12

For the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our beloved Patroness of all the Americas. Anxious that her children in Mexico would come to faith in her Son, she visited them herself and said to St. Juan Diego as she ever says to us all, "Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within the fold of my mantle? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything." 

A Penitent Considers Another Coming of Mary

For Reverend Theodore Richardson
If Mary came would Mary   
Forgive, as Mothers may,   
And sad and second Saviour   
Furnish us today?

She would not shake her head and leave   
This military air,
But ratify a modern hay,
And put her Baby there.

Mary would not punish men—
If Mary came again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 10

My family can tell you how much i enjoy feeding the birds during the winter.  Really, wild birds are nearly the ideal pet (sorry Lucy).  Cheap, easy, cute and they stay outside.  This lovely contemporary poem reminds me of my birdie friends. The title links back to its page on the Poetry Foundation site.


In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he's restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 8

Another Hanukkah poem for the last Day of the Festival.  I love really good children's poetry. It is amazing to me how responsive kids are to poetry. 

Light the Festive Candles


Light the first of eight tonight—
the farthest candle to the right.

Light the first and second, too,
when tomorrow's day is through.

Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more

Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by

When the Temple was restored,
rescued from the Syrian lord,

And an eight-day feast proclaimed—
The Festival of Lights—well named

To celebrate the joyous day
when we regained the right to pray
to our one God in our own way.

Aileen Fisher, “Light the Festive Candles” from Skip Around the Year (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1967). Copyright © 1967, 1985 by Aileen Fisher. Reprinted with the permission of Marian Reiner.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 7

I have taken a few days off, but here is one fo the Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  This was written in the 15t century as a lyric, but the original musical setting did not survive.   I 
have it here  in the original Middle English because if you ever hear it sung these are the word that you will hear. when I was in college I had to read in Middle English.  Now there's a skill I've put to good use over the years!

I Sing of a Maiden

I sing of a maiden
That is makeles:
King of alle kinges
To her sone she chees.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dewe in Aprille
That falleth on the gras.

He cam also stille
To his modres bowr
As dewe in Aprille
That falleth on the flowr.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder lay
As dewe in Aprille
That falleth on the spray.

Moder and maiden
Was nevere noon but she:
Wel may swich a lady
Godes moder be.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 4

Theis is one of the three great songs of praise in the first chapters of Luke, uttered by 
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.  Zechariah was serving his priestly duty and had been chosen to burn the incense within the sanctuary.  While doing so an angel appeared to him and talk him that his barren wife would soon be expecting a child and that he would be a fore-runner of the Messiah. Of course, he should have know better, being a priest and a scholar, after all, but he couldn't restrain himself and he challenged the angel's words.  His song of praise indicates that he is healed.

The Benedictus

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, 
because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us 
in the house of his servant David 
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 
salvation from our enemies 
and from the hand of all who hate us— 
to show mercy to our ancestors 
and to remember his holy covenant, 
the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, 
and to enable us to serve him without fear 
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; 
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 
to give his people the knowledge of salvation 
through the forgiveness of their sins, 
because of the tender mercy of our God, 
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 
to shine on those living in darkness 
and in the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

-Luke 1:68-79

Thursday, December 2, 2010

25 Poems of Christmas: December 2

Yes, this is actually a poem of Hanukkah, on this the Second Day of the Festival of Lights.  I really like this poem, which was written in Hebrew in the 13th Century.  Now you can say , "Why, yes, I know 13th Century Hebrew poetry.  Doesn't everyone?" 

Click on the title to visit the corresponding page of the Poetry Foundation.   Happy Hanukkah friends!  

Rock of My Salvation

Mighty, praised beyond compare,
Rock of my salvation,
Build again my house of prayer,
For Thy habitation!
Offering and libation, shall a ransomed nation
Joyful bring
There, and sing
Psalms of Dedication!
Woe was mine in Egypt-land,
(Tyrant kings enslaved me);
Till Thy mighty, out-stretched Hand
From oppression saved me.
Pharaoh, rash pursuing, vowed my swift undoing—
Soon, his host
That proud boast
’Neath the waves was rueing!
To Thy Holy Hill, the way
Madest Thou clear before me;
With false gods I went astray—
Foes to exile bore me.
Torn from all I cherished, almost had I perished—
Babylon fell,
Badest Thou to restore me!
Then the vengeful Haman wrought
Subtly, to betray me;
In his snare himself he caught—
He that plann’d to slay me.
(Haled from Esther’s palace; hanged on his own gallows!)
Seal and ring
Persia’s king
Gave Thy servant zealous.
When the brave Asmonéans broke
Javan’s chain in sunder,
Through the holy oil, Thy folk
Didst Thou show a wonder—
Ever full remained the vessel unprofanèd;
These eight days,
Lights and praise,
Therefore were ordainèd.
Lord, Thy Holy Arm make bare,
Speed my restoration;
Be my martyr’s blood Thy care—
Judge each guilty nation.
Long is my probation; sore my tribulation—
Bid, from Heaven,
Thy shepherds seven
Haste to my salvation!