Christmas (4)

The final part of 'Christmas' from The Shepherd's Calendar.  Typical of Clare that there is a barbed sting in the last 4 verses: the flight of those of privilege to poetry as their only real 'authentic' celebration of Christmas?  Finding for me an echo in 2011 in the popular celebration of 'the holidays' in warm and secure 'tradition', but without the content.

The wooden horse with arching head,
Drawn upon wheels around the room,
The gilded coach of gingerbread,
And many-colour'd sugar-plum,
Gilt-cover'd books for pictures sought,
Or stories childhood loves to tell,
With many an urgent promise bought,
To get to-morrow's lesson well.

And many a thing, a minute's sport,
Left broken on the sanded floor,
When we would leave our play, and court
Our parents' promises for more.
Tho' manhood bids such raptures die,
And throws such toys aside as vain,
Yet memory loves to turn her eye,
And count past pleasures o'er again.

Around the glowing hearth at night,
The harmless laugh and winter tale
Go round, while parting friends delight
To toast each other o'er their ale;
The cotter oft with quiet zeal
Will musing o'er his Bible lean;
While in the dark the lovers steal
To kiss and toy behind the screen.

Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
However simple they may be:
Whate'er with time hath sanction found,
Is welcome and is dear to me.
Pride grows above simplicity,
And spurns them from her haughty mind,
And soon the poet's song will be
The only refuge they can find.

The Shepherd's Calendar
December (lines 97 - 128)

3 comments:

Philomena Ewing said...

I don't see it as a barb - I think of it as poetry providing salvation and redemptive grace.

Roger R... said...

I really like to think so Philomena, but my interpretation is much more in line with Clare's poetic invective against those whom he saw as oppressors and hypocrites. In virtually all of his corpus you will find this so. Read his long poem "The Parish" and you will see what I mean:

"The Parish hind oppressions humble slave
Whose only hopes of freedom is the grave
The cant miscalled religion in the saint
& Justice mockd while listning wants complaint"

Roger R... said...

Philomena... sorry about using this public forum, but I have asked today to become a 'friend' on facebook. I'd be happy to correspond via that forum on poetry/theology (I am a theolog). I'd encourage you too to join the John Clare Society where you would find many poets/writers/musicians as members.

Roger R.