The Gifts of the Magi

detail from The Adoration of the Magi tapestry by Edwin Burne-Jones, Wllliam Morris & John Dearle


The Gifts of the Magi

The Magi came to Bethlehem
As guided by a rising star,
And there a newborn greeted them
Beyond the busy brisk bazaar.
So three wise men each bore a gift –
The other nine just looked-on, miffed.

The first brought gold – a solid lump –
An ingot, so the paintings show.
That must have made young Mary jump
As Caspar flashed his gift aglow.
But prizes prising gasps aghast
Should surely be withheld till last.

Then Melchior with frankincense
To sweetly burn at times of prayer –
The sort of thing we all dispense,
To hosts and strangers ev’rywhere.
Safe and useful, just the thing
To give to clients, in-laws, kings.

And finally there came the myrrh –
Embalming oil for the dead.
A tactless gift to give, for sure,
That only brings a parent dread.
Poor Balthazar had left them cold –
And wished he’d also thought of gold !




Leftover Sprouts



Leftover Sprouts

The first discarded tree on the pavement,
The first house not to turn on its lights,
The first fallen card not to be re-hung
And we still haven’t reached Twelfth Night.
Yet the Tudors partied all twelve-long,
But we’re back to work by the Second of Jan –
Once New Year’s hit, we’re done with it,
We’ve season’s-cheered as much as we can.
Why did the Magi have to take the scenic route ?
If only they’d got there in a week !
I don’t think our waistlines will make it to Epiphany,
And Winter has yet to hit its peak.

Robinless Rounds

christmas present
The Ghost of Christmas Present by John Leech


Robinless Rounds

Pass another mince pie, then,
And oh, another tot ?  Why not !
Now don’t hold back, I’ll tell you ‘when’,
Is this the only one we’ve got ?
We’ve plenty others, I could swear,
At least a dozen…Gone, you say ?
Ah well, I’m sure I had my share
When you came round the other day
But no, of late I haven’t written much,
Who wants that slog ?
I’m not concerned I’ve lost my touch –
They’ll flow again, just like this grog…
I say, this is a cosy time,
A cosy time, I always say,
Who cares about the bloody rhyme ?
I’ll write some verse another day.
Def’nitely, though, come next year,
Give or take a month or two,
But well before the Spring is here
I’ll knuckle down to something new:
Sonnets, ballads, villanelles
I’ll drink to that !  Hang on, I’m dry –
Here, fill me up, a double Bells,
And ooh, is that a mincemeat pie…?



The Annunciation to the Shepherds

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck


The Annunciation to the Shepherds

An angel found some shepherds
In the lambing pastures, not too far,
All keeping one eye out for wolves,
And one eye on that bright new star.

And the angel said:
“Behold !
I bring you tidings great with joy !
In David’s royal city, a saviour is born !
For swaddled and mangered, an innocent boy
Has taken his breath on this bright, still morn.”

Some shepherds found an angel
In the lambing pastures, glowing gold,
And after all its urgings,
They sat and thought on what it told.

And the shepherds said:
“That’s nice,
But we must watch our precious ewes.
For all your holy light,
We cannot leave and risk to lose
A single suckling sheep tonight.
So go tell folk in Bethlehem –
Those townies love to be beguiled…
But we must keep our trusting lambs
As safe as any child.”



Whatever the Sconces, they all take the same Candles



Whatever the Sconces, they all take the same Candles

Menorah candles on Christmas day
To brighten up the early dark –
Never mind what some may say,
We’ll take the spark.

Mistletoe above the door
To bring some green into the gloom –
Never mind the ancient lore,
It cheers the room.

Buddha beads upon the tree,
Tinsel draped about Ganesh –
Who cares if the fusspots see,
We like the mesh.

Dinosaurs within the crib,
Gandalf decked in red and white –
Who cares if it’s all a fib,
It’s ours tonight.



Swan Song

detail from Move Out! by Morten Storstein


Swan Song

Christmas morning, along the canal,
As we strolled passed the swans who had lost all their grey,
Between the old works and the back of the mall,
We watched as the swans chased their cygnets away.

The cob and the pen were a pair of old thugs,
On Christmas morning along the canal –
They drove out their rivals for duckweed and slugs,
And sent their kin flying off over the mall,

Frozen or starving or prey to a fox –
Their parents don’t care, but then that’s nature’s way.
We watched as the swans taught their children hard knocks,
Along the canal on a cold Christmas Day.


I would just point out that ‘canal’ and ‘mall’ do rhyme, despite the current trend to ape the Americans.



The Extra Guest

Odin by Georg von Rosen

The Extra Guest

I don’t remember being told
About old Father Christmas –
He’s just someone I’ve always known.
Popping down the chimney
That we didn’t even have,
With a candy cane or xylophone.
It somehow seemed so rational,
To fly from Perth to Honolulu,
Via Cape Town and Cologne –
But strangest yet, I never even
Thought of how he was a stranger,
All the year alone.

So when my parents placed
An empty chair upto the turkey,
I assumed it was for him.
And when a neighbour came instead,
Or refugee, or homeless man –
I didn’t find it grim.
As long as he possessed a beard,
I believed in Father Christmas –
Even with a pseudonym.
He wore a diff’rent face, each year –
But so did Mother Goose,
And Peter Pan, and Tiny Tim.

For all the gifts he gave,
Did he ever get one in return,
From Moscow to the Amazon ?
Each year, I’d long to thank him,
But the meal would soon be over
And my moment never seized upon.
Yet in my mind, he’d wink, and say,
“Don’t worry, I already know.”
And then he would be gone.
We never get to give a gift to him,
But ev’ry year,
Instead we pay it forward, pass it on.

Humbug on High



Humbug on High

I’m sorry, kids, I cannot lie,
That flash you see across the sky
On this, the night of Christmas Eve,
Is not a magic flying sleigh,
However much you may believe.
I’m sorry, kids, I cannot lie,
The laws of physics still hold sway.

But do you know, kids, what you see ?
That dashing light, what can it be ?
The ISS is flying by –
Or rather, falling, always falling,
Falling through our Christmas sky.
And far more magic than a sleigh,
This shining star on Christmas Day.

Christmas Bells



Christmas Bells

The churches used to ring-in Christmas Day,
With peels that rolled across the shires,
And towns with out-competing spires.
They may chime still, but who’s to say ?
Amid our busy, noisy lives,
The traffic and the nine-to-fives,
We’ve little use for summonses to pray.
For all the bells may toll the blues,
We never come to fill the pews –
But if we hear them chiming, that’s okay.
And if we don’t, well, never fear,
There’s plenty other bells to hear:
On doors and tills and phones, they ring away.
And even though we see no snow,
And even though we see no deer,
We cannot help but hear the ever-tinkle of the sleigh.



I’m Making a List, I’m Checking it Twice


I’m Making a List, I’m Checking it Twice

Hey, kids ! I know a magic word,
That stops Christmas blues and scoffed disdain
From ever being heard

Now, kids, attempt to listen not
And don’t endure their upset or profane,
Nor cynicism’s rot

So kids, declare “Oh, humbug, yea !
Oh partypoop, oh blanket-wet, begone !
I won’t hear what you say.”

Then kids, a flush of thwarted rouge
Should stop them speechless dead, so follow on
With “killjoy” first, then “scrooge”.

But kids, don’t give their logic chance,
Just plug your ears and “Humbug !” them away
With loyal ignorance.

And kids, believe your parents’ lies
Of chimneys, reindeer, magic sack and sleigh –
Don’t doubt or analyse.

Oh, kids, you have obeyed me well,
And kept their urbane trickery afar
To keep you feeling swell.

Yes, kids, you must avoid such nous
Just like the good consumers that you are
And all is fine. Or else !