Thursday, 29 December 2016

Xmas Trees: Inside and Outside

 

Every year I do a series of Xmas entries on the blog, helped and encouraged by suggestions and recommendations from my lovely readers. You can see some of last year’s pictures in this entry, and find (endless!) more Xmas books via the tags at the bottom of the page.



The Christmas Tree by Cecil Day Lewis





Christmas Tree


Put out the lights now!
Look at the Tree, the rough tree dazzled
In oriole plumes of flame,
Tinselled with twinkling frost fire, tasselled
With stars and moons - the same
That yesterday hid in the spinney and had no fame
Till we put out the lights now.
Hard are the nights now:


The fields at moonrise turn to agate,
Shadows are cold as jet;
In dyke and furrow, in copse and faggot
The frost's tooth is set;
And stars are the sparks whirled out by the north wind's fret
On the flinty nights now.


So feast your eyes now
On mimic star and moon-cold bauble;
Worlds may wither unseen,
But the Christmas Tree is a tree of fable,
A phoenix in evergreen,
And the world cannot change or chill what its mysteries mean
To your hearts and eyes now.


The vision dies now
Candle by candle: the tree that embraced it
Returns to its own kind,
To be earthed again and weather as best it
May the frost and the wind.
Children, it too had its hour – you will not mind
If it lives or dies now.


commentary: You’d think there’d be a lot of poems about Christmas and Christmas trees, but actually there aren’t. I really like this one, spelling out the ways and truth of the decorative trees.

C Day Lewis is more often featured on the blog for the detective stories he wrote under the name Nicholas Blake - there’s a Christmas-y one coming shortly. He was also the lover of blog favourite Rosamond Lehmann (and the father of the actor Daniel Day Lewis).

But he was a fine poet, who was a poet laureate. He seems well on his way to being forgotten, which is a shame: he wrote good honest poems which speak to the reader. One of his best is Walking Away, about your children growing up, and I also very much like The Album.

The picture shows part of The Christmas Tree by Albert Chevallier Tayler, from the Athenaeum website.







13 comments:

  1. That's a lovely poem, Moira, and I'm glad you shared it. Like you, I tend to think of Cecil Day Lewis more in his crime writer persona. But as you say, he was also a very, very talented poet. It's nice to be reminded of that.

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    1. He is rather under-rated these days, but I think he did both well...

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  2. Thanks to you I just read his first mystery and quite enjoyed it.

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    1. Oh good! And there are a few more - you probably don't want to rush to read his next one straightaway, but I will pick one up now and again and always enjoy.

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  3. It's a good poem. His poetry is quietly impressive, but he seems to be lacking in that posthumous kick that puts him back in the public consciousness (how many people first heard of his friend W H Auden because of FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL?)Sometimes it seems as though, unless you are very lucky, you can have all your popularity during your lifetime, or else you can starve in your garret and get it all posthumously. If I were ever offered, I think that I would take it whilst I was alive. Posterity is all very well, but it's more fun to have the extra serving of jam whilst you're able to enjoy it!

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    1. Indeed! And as I get older, I think who keeps, or gains, a reputation and who is forgotten is based entirely on chance and not on merit. Oh, and on who has vociferous supporters and family telling their story...

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  4. A lovely poem, indeed, Moira. Thanks for spotlighting it. Poetry makes you want to read it on and on. I'd no idea C. Day Lewis was the real name of Nicholas Blake or that he was the father of Daniel Day Lewis.

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    1. Thanks Prashant. I so agree, when you read it you want to read more. And yes, a talented family...

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  5. That is a lovely poem, Moira. Because I read his mysteries and enjoy them I don't think of him as forgotten, but I suppose that he is, relatively.

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    1. Strangely enough this poem featured on a quiz show in Brit TV this week: nobody had the faintest idea who wrote it, even though the question included the fact that 'he was poet laureate'. The team didn't look much the wiser when the answer was given out. We will have to work to keep his name alive!

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  6. Thanks for this, Moira. I didn't know it. Yes, a fine poet and I think Walking Away is a wonderful poem.
    It's odd that he isn't better known - he had quite a racy life - affair with Rosamund Lehman (have I spelt that right) and so on - and that usually helps!

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    1. Yes, but as I said in an answer above, as I get older I get more convinced that reputation is based on nothing much. I wonder if he ever will get another chance...

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    2. Actually a Bloomsbury-style TV drama is needed about those 1930s-50s poets and writers - Lehmann and Day Lewis along with Auden and Spender...

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