A Christmas Carroll, sung to the King in the Presence at White-Hall
By Robert Herrick
Dark and dull night, flie hence away,
And give the honour to this Day,
That sees December turned to May.
If we may ask the reason, say;
The why, and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Spring-time of the yeere?
Why do's the chilling Winters morne
Smile, like a field beset with corne?
Or smell, like to a Meade new-shorne,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is borne, whose quickning Birth
Gives life and luster, publike mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.
We see Him come, and know him ours,
Who, with His Sun-shine and His showers,
Turnes all the patient ground to flowers.
The Darling of the world is come
And fit it is, we find a roome
To welcome Him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart,
Which we will give him; and bequeath
This Hollie, and this Ivie Wreath,
To do Him honour; who's our King,
And Lord of all this Revelling.
From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World this Christmas Sunday. "How can a Christmas poem do something new or unexpected?" wonders Pinsky. "Herrick's poem presents the holy baby born in December as a darling prince of flowers, a springtime rather than a wintry figure. Herrick is best known for his poems about drinking, sex and festivity, such as 'Corinna's Gone A-Maying.' A sensual joy emanates from his Christmas poem:...in praising 'public mirth' and 'revelling,' Herrick takes sides in the religious controversies -- and the religious wars and executions -- of his time. But he also slides past the argument with the Puritans. He celebrates 'the darling of the world' with pleasure rather than doctrine or commandments."
I'm in Hanover with my husband's family, where there is a little tree and lots of Scandinavian decorations -- they have a straw goat, an orange painted horse and several tomtens on their shelves. We had a very lovely drive up here looking at Gettysburg memorials out the window and listening to the Redskins defeating the Giants -- who would have guessed from how they started their season that they would have a shot at winning their division? My mother-in-law decided when she retired that she was sick of spending all day before Christmas Eve cooking, so instead of having anything traditional, we had Red Lobster, which was excellent (younger son and I split the coconut shrimp and grilled salmon). There are also many kinds of cookies and mints and chocolate.
How we spent the night before Christmas...playing dreidel. (I believe my father-in-law won, though that may be because my younger son ate half his pieces before counting.)
On Sunday my parents are driving up, and we are having a mixture of Ashkenazi Jewish and Swedish holiday foods (latkes, meatballs, korv, sufganiot, etc.) Pickled herring crosses the cultural divide. Too bad it's just about the only fish I don't like! Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday, whatever you're celebrating -- happy slash season (Christmas/Chanukah/Midwinter/Kwanzaa/Yule), or, as my kids have been saying, Happy Christmakwanzukule!