Thursday, 12 December 2013

We Have Tested And Tasted Too Much

I freely admit I'm a 'carols without context' sort of person. Context is fine, but not so easy on the nerves when the company includes two nearly five year olds. On Monday, we attended the college's ecumenical carol service in Trinity College Chapel, an area of the college I didn't darken often in my undergrad days, and even if it was an hour and a half long, it was gorgeous. The Trinity Choir sang carols from Silent Night to lesser-known Benjamin Britten's, and it was truly uplifting. And the 'context' -- readings and lessons — was thought-provoking, not least when Kavanagh was invoked. It's never too soon to read Advent again. Enjoy.
Advent
We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

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