“Christmas Landscape” by Laurie Lee

The English writer Laurie Lee is best known for his autobiographical trilogy “Cider with Rosie” (1959), “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning” (1969) and “A Moment of War” (1991). But his first love was always poetry, in which he set out to capture the beauty of the English countryside.

When Laurie Lee died in 1997, The Guardian published an obituary which said, “He has a nightingale inside him, a capacity for sensuous, lyrical precisions.” The point is illustrated by his poem “Christmas Landscape”.

Winter“Tonight the wind gnaws
with teeth of glass,
the jackdaw shivers
in caged branches of iron,
the stars have talons.

There is hunger in the mouth
of vole and badger,
silver agonies of breath
in the nostril of the fox,
ice on the rabbit’s paw.

Tonight has no moon,
no food for the pilgrim;
the fruit tree is bare,
the rose bush a thorn
and the ground bitter with stones.

But the mole sleeps, and the hedgehog
lies curled in a womb of leaves,
the bean and the wheat-seed
hug their germs in the earth
and the stream moves under the ice.

Tonight there is no moon,
but a new star opens
like a silver trumpet over the dead.
Tonight in a nest of ruins
the blessed babe is laid.

And the fir tree warms to a bloom of candles,
the child lights his lantern,
stares at his tinsel toy;
our hearts and hearths
smoulder with live ashes.

In the blood of our grief
the cold earth is suckled,
in our agony the womb
convulses its seed,
in the last cry of anguish
the child’s first breath is born.”


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