January 3rd, 2010

Christmas, Advent

Advent 2009: The Gift

Ah, I do love me some William Carlos Williams. I remember by mom introducing me to "The Red Wheelbarrow" when I was just a wee bairn. I was not familiar this particular poem of his before I started gathering works for this year's poetry project, but I like it very much.

The Gift

As the wise men of old brought gifts
     guided by a star
          to the humble birthplace

of the god of love,
     the devils
          as an old print shows
retreated in confusion.

     What could a baby know
          of gold ornaments
or frankincense and myrrh,
     of priestly robes
          and devout genuflections?

But the imagination
     knows all stories
          before they are told
and knows the truth of this one
     past all defection

The rich gifts
     so unsuitable for a child
          though devoutly proffered,
stood for all that love can bring.

     The men were old
          how could they know
of a mother's needs
     or a child's
          appetite?

But as they kneeled
     the child was fed.

          They saw it
and
     gave praise!

          A miracle
had taken place,
     hard gold to love,
a mother's milk!
     before
          their wondering eyes.

The ass brayed
     the cattle lowed.
          It was their nature.

All men by their nature give praise.
     It is all
          they can do.

The very devils
     by their flight give praise.
          What is death,
beside this?

     Nothing. The wise men
          came with gifts
and bowed down
     to worship
          this perfection.

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963)

Previous Advent posts:

2004: The Ballad of Befana
2005: The Adoration of the Magi
2006: New Year Greeting
2007: from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter twenty-three: 'Christmas on the Closed Ward'
2008: Skating Race
2009: The Twelve Days of Christmas

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