For the sixth list of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
Six Christmas Poems
If you’ve been around here or HighCallingBlogs.com much, you know I have a soft spot in my heart for poetry. I read Poetry Magazine and 32 Poems. I listen to Poetry Off the Shelf and other poetry podcasts. I read new collections of poetry as often as I can find good ones. (I share all this not to brag, but to confess a particular weirdness of mine.)
And above all, I love reading poetry out loud. That said, six poems out loud is a bit much. So unless I change my mind and find a bit of time over the next few days, you are on your own with this set…
1) Christmas Hymn by Charles Wesley
This is worth a closer read, but you’ll have to read it out loud to get the tune out of your head. Try reading it sentence by sentence (thus the lack of line breaks below), and also notice how the original differs subtly from the lyrics we normally sing:
HARK! how all the welkin rings glory to the King of Kings! Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled! Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies. Universal nature say, Christ the Lord is born to-day!
2) Christmas Trees by Robert Frost
What better poet to help the tentative reader than Robert Frost? His use of blank verse, occasional end-rhyme, conversational style, and contemporary language makes him uniquely accessible. This poem is about a man who must decide whether to sell his trees to a Christmas Tree salesman who wants to chop them down. It’s a great read. Here’s a peek:
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
3) Christmas 1915 by Percy MacKaye
What good is a list of Christmas poems that doesn’t include a good Christmas war poem of horror? No good at all. Besides, I love this sonnet. MacKaye’s poem is haunting. He observes the wars of the world, Mother Earth, as labor pains leading to some kind of birth…
Christ! What shall be delivered to the morn
Out of these pangs, if ever indeed another
Morn shall succeed this night
4) The Shivering Beggar by Robert Graves
Have yourself a merry little satiric Christmas with this deceptively light poem. Saint Edward strips himself naked to help a shivering beggar. But like the church so often does, the well meaning Christian overestimates his ability to diagnose the man’s problem. This is a must read.
NEAR Clapham village, where fields began,
Saint Edward met a beggar man.
It was Christmas morning, the church bells tolled,
The old man trembled for the fierce cold.
5) Magi by W. B. Yeats
And we can’t forget the Christmas poems written by folks who doubt. Yeats is a master at diagnosing the problem with the world. We should pay close attention to him–which thankfully we can do with joy because his poetry was so incredibly shocking and beautiful. Another haunting poem.
He paints a short picture of Magi unsatisfied by calvary who return to the nativity
…hoping to find once more…
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.
6) Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot
Oh me. My favorite Christmas poem of all–at least in part because I can read it any time of year. Supposedly, you can hear a recording of T. S. Eliot himself reading the poem on this site, but I couldn’t get it to work. (Not that I would want to hear Eliot read it. He’s a terrible reader.)
But the ending here is too too wonderful.
…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.