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"Christmas" by John Betjeman (poem) - Light One Candle

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December 17th, 2007

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01:48 pm - "Christmas" by John Betjeman (poem)
My RL friend Dan sent me the link to this; he heard the last three stanzas read at a Lessons and Carols service yesterday, and knew I'd like it. Thanks, Dan!


by John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
'The Church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Current Mood: pleasedpleased

(3 lit candles | Light a candle)


[User Picture]
Date:December 17th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
That's beautiful.
[User Picture]
Date:December 18th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
Funny, in real life Betjeman was probably CS Lewis' worst enemy - he was of the minority who had studied with Lewis and absolutely hated it. Yet this whole poem, and of course especially the last three stanzas (did you notice the belief in Transubstantiation in the last line?) seem to me absolutely Lewisian.
[User Picture]
Date:December 18th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
:-) Yeah, the friend who pointed out the poem told me the same thing--interesting, isn't it? They do indeed ring very "Lewis"; very strong, modern, clear statements of longing and truth.

I did catch the reference to Transubstantiation (and I'm not even Catholic).

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