Sonnets at Christmas

Sonnets at Christmas


This is the day His hour of life draws near,
let me get ready from head to foot for it
Most handily with eyes to pick the year
For small feed to reward a feathered wit.
Some men would see it an epiphany
At ease, at food and drink. others at chase;
Yet I, stung lassitude, with ecstasy
Unspent argue the season’s difficult case
So: Man, dull creature of enormous head,
What would he look at in the coiling sky?
But I must kneel again unto the Dead
While Christmas bells of paper white and red,
Figured with boys and girls split from a sled,
Ring out the silence i am nourished by.


Ah, Christ, I love you rings in the wild sky
And i must think a little of the past:
When i was ten i told a stinking lie
That got a black boy whipped; but now at last
The going years, caught in an after-glow,
Reverse like balls englished upon green baize –
Let them return, let the round trumpets blow
The ancient crackle of the Christ’s deep gaze.
Deafened and blind, with senses yet unfound,
Am I, untutored to the after-wit
Of knowledge, knowing a nightmare has no sound;
Therefore with idle hands and head I sit
In late December before the fire’s daze
Punished by crimes of which I would be quit.

from The Collected Poems 1919-1976, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 19787), copyright © 1960, 1965 by Allen Tate, used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, All rights reserved. The recording was made on 18 February 1944 at the Recording Laboratory, Library of Congress, Washington DC and is used with permission of the Library of Congress.

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