Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas with Thomas Hardy


This poem is taken from "A West Country Christmas" compiled by Chris Smith.

'It's not difficult to conjure up a picture of that marvellous man of Dorset literature, Thomas hardy, sitting by the fireside at Christmas time as the flickering light from the fireplace draws shadows on the walls - an atmosphere perfectly captured in this poem:

While I watch the Christmas blaze
Paint the room with ruddy rays,

Something makes my vision glide

To the frosty scene outside.

There, to reach a rotting berry,

Toils a thrush - constrained to very

Dregs of food by sharp distress,

Taking such with thankfulness.

Why, O starving bird,
When I
one day's joy would justify
And put misery out of view,

Do you make me notice you?

Thomas Hardy.

Extract from "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas, because I cannot have a Christmas without mention of Cats!!!

Here is Jarvis, posing nicely. He is called Jarvis because we are - somewhat distantly I believe - related to musician Jarvis Cocker, through my mum's Battams family.

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

Now for my favourite of Hardy's seasonal poems and I make no apology for repeating it year on year!

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.

Thomas Hardy.


  1. All three paint very different pictures of Christmas to what we know now. Hope your Christmas is happy and peaceful and that the New Year brings you better times.

  2. I have always loved the Hardy poem and I did enjoy your Christmas Eve selection.

    Have a wonderful Christmas with your lovely family BB, and wishing you better times too as the old year moves towards the new.xx

  3. Have a Cool Yule, hope 2012 brings all good things x