Well, so that is that
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken - and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Leftovers to do, warmed up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted - quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unwelcome whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in out lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father:
"Lead us not into temptation and evil for our sake."
They will come all right, don't worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time in noon:
When the spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God's Will will be done, that, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
W . H. Auden (1907-1973)
W. H. Auden had a peculiar habit of omitting the spaces after commas in his typed manuscripts. You will note that I have chosen not to reproduce this habit of his. That's because omitting the spaces after commas looks stupid and wrong.
Speaking of things that are stupid and wrong, I hope everyone enjoyed New Year's Day, which gets my vote for the most worthless and pointless of all holidays. And I think I can speak with some authority on the subject, because I used to live in a state that celebrates Casimir Pulaski Day. It's sort of an anti-holiday. The celebration takes place in anticipation of the holiday, and when the holiday itself actually arrives, the party ends and everyone goes to bed. Then when you get up later in the day, you either sit back and watch TV all day, or just sort of putter around trying to find something to do. In my experience, very few people observe any sort of tradition or ritual on New Year's Day.
To its credit, the holiday has improved somewhat since I was a child; back then, almost everything was closed on New Year's Day, and all the good TV shows were pre-empted for college football. Nowadays, most of the big chains and the malls are open, so it's pretty easy to kill time shopping. I, for example, spent much of my afternoon at Borders. Good times. But honestly, I would have been just as happy to be at work.