Carols from Kings 2020

The Christmas Eve Carol Service from Kings College Cambridge was a bit different for 2020. There was no congregation and recorded in advance it was beautiful nonetheless.

Click on the link below for the poignant In the Bleak Mid-Winter, music by Gustav Holst and arranged by Mack Wilberg, especially apt for this 2020 winter.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pTzqMi2AQF8

The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Elliot.

I love this poem. The nitty, gritty of the journey to see Mary and Joseph’s baby. The feeling of ‘I could be somewhere else other than on this damn journey’:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti.

Well who knew?

I have only discovered today that my favourite Christmas Carol was written by a favourite poet of mine.

In the Bleak Midwinter was published originally under the title “A Christmas Carol “and was first collected in book form in Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems(Macmillan, 1875).

Then in 1906, the composer Gustav Holst composed a setting of Rossetti’s words (titled “Cranham”) in The English Hymnal, which is sung throughout the world. Gustav Holst drew inspiration from walks in his native Gloucestershire: the tune for Rossetti’s poem. The tune was named after the small Cotswold village where his grandparents lived.

Goblin Market, as readers of myblog will know, is a favourite of mine too.

Advent.

Advent is underway in the Christian Calendar. For Christians it’s a season of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming.

In addition to the religious significance, for families it is a fun lead up to Christmas- to burn an advent candle or open the doors in an advent calendar, slowly building the anticipation for Christmas.