the Twelve Days of Christmas

File:XRF 12days.jpgYes! Christmas is not over until it’s over, and that means the entire twelve days. Traditionally, at least in the Anglican Church of England where this song originated, each day represented a specific kind of celebration and prayer. There are some urban legends of course, but in truth, no one really knows what the heck the specific gifts represent, if anything. Nonetheless, ( a nice old fashioned word here), If we were to follow the days and assigned gifts, it could be expensive, unless, of course, you were Henry the Eighth or Queen Elizabeth (either one).

 

Allow me to give you, my faithful reader, a seventh-day-of-Christmas gift in lieu of Seven Swans a-Swimming.

[little tree] By E. E. Cummings

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”

images

Christmas Bells
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.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
bells

And since we are considering the poet who called himself a “dreamer of dreams,” here is another of his poems, this one from the little-noticed bookshelf and maybe surprising to my Spanish-speaking friends. What better time than Christmas to check out this New England poet:
http://www.HWLongfellow.org

The Bells of San Blas

What say the Bells of San Blas
To the ships that southward pass
From the harbor of Mazatlan?
To them it is nothing more
Than the sound of surf on the shore,–
Nothing more to master or man.

But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
To whom what is and what seems
Are often one and the same,–
The Bells of San Blas to me
Have a strange, wild melody,
And are something more than a name.

For bells are the voice of the church;
They have tones that touch and search
The hearts of young and old;
One sound to all, yet each
Lends a meaning to their speech,
And the meaning is manifold.

They are a voice of the Past,
Of an age that is fading fast,
Of a power austere and grand,
When the flag of Spain unfurled
Its folds o’er this western world,
And the Priest was lord of the land.

The chapel that once looked down
On the little seaport town
Has crumbled into the dust;
And on oaken beams below
The bells swing to and fro,
And are green with mould and rust.

“Is, then, the old faith dead,”
They say, “and in its stead
Is some new faith proclaimed,
That we are forced to remain
Naked to sun and rain,
Unsheltered and ashamed?

“Once, in our tower aloof,
We rang over wall and roof
Our warnings and our complaints;
And round about us there
The white doves filled the air,
Like the white souls of the saints.

“The saints! Ah, have they grown
Forgetful of their own?
Are they asleep, or dead,
That open to the sky
Their ruined Missions lie,
No longer tenanted?

“Oh, bring us back once more
The vanished days of yore,
When the world with faith was filled;
Bring back the fervid zeal,
The hearts of fire and steel,
The hands that believe and build.

“Then from our tower again
We will send over land and main
Our voices of command,
Like exiled kings who return
To their thrones, and the people learn
That the Priest is lord of the land!”

O Bells of San Blas in vain
Ye call back the Past again;
The Past is deaf to your prayer!
Out of the shadows of night
The world rolls into light;
It is daybreak everywhere.

Few Instructors teach Longfellow today. He rhymes. He is religious. He is serious. Maybe didactic. Like e.e.cummings, he was a New Englander, and here is another one, Sarah Orne Jewett (also from the little-noticed bookshelf) speaking of Longfellow, “His work stands like a great cathedral in which the world may worship and be taught to pray, long after its tired architect goes home to rest.”

Check back for your 8th-day-of-Christmas present, Dear Reader. Until then, Let’s welcome 2014 and pray it brings luck, grace, hope and ways to make a living for all those who still believe in America, who look forward to a way out of this big mess with more jobs and fewer foreclosures. We all know what it’s like to want to join the merrymakers. Here’s how Norman Rockwell, the chronicler of American Holidays, pictured the situation.

Xmas wish

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