Saturday, December 21, 2013

Poems about Christmas:Playlist for December 20, 2013

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Messiah (Christmas Portions)

By Mark Doty b. 1953

A little heat caught

in gleaming rags,

in shrouds of veil,

   torn and sun-shot swaddlings: 

   over the Methodist roof,

two clouds propose a Zion

of their own, blazing

   (colors of tarnish on copper

   against the steely close

of a coastal afternoon, December,

while under the steeple

   the Choral Society 

   prepares to perform

Messiah, pouring, in their best

blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.

   Not steep, really,   

   but from here,

the first pew, they’re a looming

cloudbank of familiar angels:

   that neighbor who 

   fights operatically

with her girlfriend, for one,

and the friendly bearded clerk

   from the post office 

   —tenor trapped

in the body of a baritone? Altos

from the A&P, soprano

   from the T-shirt shop: 


   today they’re all poise,

costume and purpose

conveying the right note

   of distance and formality. 


   Silence in the hall,

anticipatory, as if we’re all

about to open a gift we’re not sure

   we’ll like; 


   how could they

compete with sunset’s burnished

oratorio? Thoughts which vanish,

   when the violins begin. 

   Who’d have thought

they’d be so good? Every valley,

proclaims the solo tenor,

   (a sleek blonde  


   I’ve seen somewhere before

—the liquor store?) shall be exalted,

and in his handsome mouth the word

   is lifted and opened 


   into more syllables

than we could count, central ah

dilated in a baroque melisma,

   liquefied; the pour

   of voice seems

to make the unplaned landscape

the text predicts the Lord

   will heighten and tame. 


   This music

demonstrates what it claims:

glory shall be revealed. If art’s

   acceptable evidence, 


   mustn’t what lies

behind the world be at least

as beautiful as the human voice?

   The tenors lack confidence, 


   and the soloists,

half of them anyway, don’t

have the strength to found

   the mighty kingdoms  


   these passages propose

—but the chorus, all together,

equals my burning clouds,

   and seems itself to burn,  


   commingled powers

deeded to a larger, centering claim.

These aren’t anyone we know;

   choiring dissolves 


   familiarity in an up-

pouring rush which will not

rest, will not, for a moment,

   be still. 


   Aren’t we enlarged

by the scale of what we’re able

to desire? Everything,

   the choir insists, 


   might flame;

inside these wrappings

burns another, brighter life,

   quickened, now, 


   by song: hear how

it cascades, in overlapping,

lapidary waves of praise? Still time.

   Still time to change.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Every Valley, from Messiah by G.F. Handel




Christmas Night

By Conrad Hilberry b. 1928


Let midnight gather up the wind  

and the cry of tires on bitter snow.  

Let midnight call the cold dogs home,  

sleet in their fur—last one can blow   


the streetlights out.   If children sleep  

after the day’s unfoldings, the wheel  

of gifts and griefs, may their breathing  

ease the strange hollowness we feel.   


Let midnight draw whoever’s left  

to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls  

low mutterings of smoke until  

a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Machet die Tore weit by Andreas Hammerschmidt


The Oxen

By Thomas Hardy 1840–1928  

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

“Now they are all on their knees,”

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.


We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then. 


So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

“Come; see the oxen kneel,


“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,”

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Nativity Carol by John Rutter



THE TRUE CHRISTMAS.
by Henry Vaughan


SO, stick up ivy and the bays,
And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring,
Though this great day denies the thing ;
And mortifies the earth, and all
But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flow'rs, and roses strow
Blushing upon your breasts' warm snow,
That very dress your lightness will
Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe
Not unto music, masque, nor show,
Nor gallant furniture, nor plate,
But to the manger's mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth,
Was but a check to pomp and mirth ;
And all man's greatness you may see
Condemned by His humility.

    Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherds' watchfulness,
Whom light and hymns from Heav'n did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in ;
But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight,
And then you keep your Christmas right.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Dies natalis by Gerald Finzi



Revels


Moon upon the swarth

cut fresh

and horsemen, thundering silhouettes

not heard, like swarthy ghosts.

Air rippled by their passing,

ripped--open:

the play revealed.

Courtiers and courtesans,

mothers and their children, dancing,

firefly lanthorns,

music faint, far distant,

off-stage laughter.

Low-bellied creatures wet with dew

run this way, back,

blink.

A meadowlark, out of time,

sings counter to the pantomime. 


The meadowlark in time calls from its post;

"gather up your joy," bids garter'd host. 

Viol, recorder, sackbut, sound their chord;

the players grin, their hands joined in accord:

Our scripts thus done, we have no more to say,

so take our bows, and by your leave--good day. 


Rob Stuart


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Allemande (16th century), Anonymous.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Poems about Winter: Playlist for December 13, 2013


The Snow Is Deep on the Ground

By Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972

The snow is deep on the ground.  

Always the light falls

Softly down on the hair of my belov├Ęd. 
 

This is a good world.

The war has failed.

God shall not forget us.

Who made the snow waits where love is. 
 

Only a few go mad.

The sky moves in its whiteness

Like the withered hand of an old king.  

God shall not forget us.

Who made the sky knows of our love. 

 

The snow is beautiful on the ground.  

And always the lights of heaven glow  

Softly down on the hair of my beloved.



REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9/1 by Frederic Chopin

 

 

 

Sonnet XCVII: How like a Winter hath my Absence been

By William Shakespeare 1564–1616 e been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year! What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen! What old December's bareness everywhere! And yet this time remov'd was summer's time, The teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime, Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease: Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me But hope of orphans and unfather'd fruit; For summer and his pleasures wait on thee, And thou away, the very birds are mute; Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.

How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December's bareness everywhere!

And yet this time remov'd was summer's time,

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,

Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me

But hope of orphans and unfather'd fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor (3rd mvt.) by Frederic Chopin

way, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near. And thou away, the very birds are mute; Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.  

 

White-Eyes

By Mary Oliver b. 1935

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.
 

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.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. posth. by Frederic Chopin

 

 

Mailboxes in Late Winter

By Jeffrey Harrison b. 1957

It’s a motley lot. A few still stand

at attention like sentries at the ends

of their driveways, but more lean

askance as if they’d just received a blow

to the head, and in fact they’ve received

many, all winter, from jets of wet snow

shooting off the curved, tapered blade

of the plow. Some look wobbly, cocked

at oddball angles or slumping forlornly

on precariously listing posts. One box

bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door

lolling sideways, unhinged. Others are dented,

battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,

crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.

A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow

that knocked them from their perches.

Another is wedged in the crook of a tree

like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.

I almost feel sorry for them, worn out

by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing

what hit them, trying to hold themselves

together, as they wait for news from spring.



REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Etude in G-flat major Op. 10/5   by Frederic Chopin

 

 

Snow-flakes

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882Out of the bosom of the Air,

      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,

Over the woodlands brown and bare,

      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,

            Silent, and soft, and slow

            Descends the snow.  

 

Even as our cloudy fancies take

      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,

Even as the troubled heart doth make

      In the white countenance confession,

            The troubled sky reveals

            The grief it feels.


 

This is the poem of the air,

      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;

This is the secret of despair,

      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,

            Now whispered and revealed

            To wood and field.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Larghetto) by Frederic Chopin