Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Starfire Crown: Merry Christmas

I'm on the Poem for Monday mailing list at Burke's Book Store in Memphis. This week novelist, poet, and bookseller Corey Mesler sent out a real, sure-nuff Christmas poem. These days that seems a rather bold act, even in Tennessee, and I'm passing on this bit of loveliness.

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Woodcut courtesy of www.godecookery.com, the site for Medieval and Renaissance recipes.

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A Christmas Carol Poem

by G. K. Chesterton


The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

***

Now isn't that simple and lovely and magical? It has a radiance and a sweetness that many a contemporary poet, immured in the School of the Politically Correct & the Lyceum of Snipped-up Prose, has never found. Innocence and world-weariness go arm in arm until the end, when what Elizabeth Bishop called "infant sight" conquers all in the final verse, when the flowers of light and the flowers of earth are drawn to turn their faces to the child.

And you can even sing the lines to your favorite carol or ballad tune. That old alternation of tetrameter and trimeter iambics is shapely still. The ballad stanza is easy on the ear, even when it doesn't use all its resources and sticks to one rhyme per quatrain, abcb.

If you'd like to be on Burke's list for a weekly poem, write Mr. C. Mesler via burkes [at] netten.net. Corey's "mind-blowing hippie novel," We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon, is now available ($14.95 paperback, $25 hardback). Want a signed or inscribed copy? Go to www.burkesbooks.com.

A resounding Merry Christmas to you, with peace and joy and no materialist Happy Inoffensive Money-grubbing Holiday wishes at all.

5 comments:

  1. Not only are you on the Poem for Monday mailing list, you're also on the Acknowledgments page of Ingrid Hill's splendid Ursula, Under, which I've been enjoying ... imagine my surprise! Not really; Algonquin's one of the best publishers around. Are you and Ingrid buds?

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  2. Oh, I'm glad you like it--I think her book is proving to be a great "handsell" for booksellers. Bob Gray at Northshire and the 'Fresh Eyes' blog has really pushed "Ursula."

    I met Ingrid after she read a story that I'd published some years ago in the Raleigh News & Observer. We were "introduced" via one of the editors. I hadn't read anything by her then, so she shipped me a wonderful batch of xeroxed short stories. And we've yacked back and forth--sometimes more than others, given various bits of life-havoc. I've never met her in the flesh, but I imagine that will happen during some peregrination or other, hers or mine.

    It's sweet that she put me on that page, isn't it? Because that's a good book to find one's name in.

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  3. Marly, in the busyness of preparing the way for twelve and thirteen-year-olds to come into their own, I’ve lapsed far behind in reading “The Palace. . .” So it is a special delight to open your blog this a.m. to a G. K. Chesterson poem. He ranks at the top of my list. Any and all of his writing is worthy, although not much is still in print, but his books seem to pop up serendipitously in used book stores and library book sales. Thanks for sharing . . . and a resounding Merry Christmas to you.
    Hopefully, during this winter break, I’ll have time to read through your recent posts. As I scroll, I see many fantastic illustrations, but for now, I must make a list, check it twice . . .

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  4. A peaceful and joyful Twelve Days of Christmas to you, Connie--

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  5. Jim,

    Ingrid says that only a couple of those names are friends, the rest being what she calls "informants." She liked your comment and found it interesting that somebody actually reads the Acknowledgments!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.