Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols
“No,” Jack said, “Good King
“Perhaps it was a ghost,” Jim said.
“Perhaps it was trolls,” Dan said, who was always reading.
“Let’s go in and see if there’s any jelly left,” Jack said. And we did that.
Always on Christmas
A Nostalgia for lost times haunts so many memories of childhood. We often luxuriate in what we would like to think happened, even if this was only secretly because our ‘real’ childhood betrayed our hopes and fulfilled our fears.
Dylan Thomas wrote a remarkable prose poem called A Child’s Christmas in Wales. It evokes a lost time that knows it is made up as all the best stories are, but in that made up
I love the tentativeness of the ‘small dry voice through the keyhole’ who sings back to the carol singing boys. It feels as if the voice has been neglected and lonely. Ironically the carols wake up the voice but terrify the young singers too. Fragility is not always treated delicately! Thomas brilliantly recreates a theatrical, memorable scene from childhood, and suffuses the scene with a poet’s respect for the extraordinary. The ‘dry voice’ is the ‘eggshell voice’ which evokes the rebirth and fragility all in one image.
After running to escape the voice, the boys debate the identity of the speaker, a debate that abandons mention of ‘trolls’ and a ‘ ghost’ in favour of ‘jelly’! Bathos is perfectly deployed and brilliantly preserves the sense of youthful joie de vivre and changeability. ‘And we did that.’ Listen to the perfection of the
In the final paragraph, the poet recalls the rhythm of his retirement after so many fun-filled exertions. The last line takes the reader with the poet as he bids farewell in stages, to his perfect Christmas. Who can resist the beguiling awe of ‘I said some words to the close and holy darkness’ – it captures the trance-like state of the tired but deeply grateful!
Leaves me with a sense of grace….
The Woman in Black
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