Poetry Advent Calendar: 2nd December

Advent 1955


The Advent wind begins to stir

With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,

It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,

And in between we only see

Clouds hurrying across the sky

And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry

And branches bending to the gale

Against great skies all silver pale

The world seems travelling into space,

And travelling at a faster pace

Than in the leisured summer weather

When we and it sit out together,

For now we feel the world spin round

On some momentous journey bound –

Journey to what? to whom? to where?

The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,

Your world is journeying to the birth

Of God made Man for us on earth.’

And how, in fact, do we prepare

The great day that waits us there –

For the twenty-fifth day of December,

The birth of Christ? For some it means

An interchange of hunting scenes

On coloured cards, And I remember

Last year I sent out twenty yards,

Laid end to end, of Christmas cards

To people that I scarcely know –

They’d sent a card to me, and so

I had to send one back. Oh dear!

Is this a form of Christmas cheer?

Or is it, which is less surprising,

My pride gone in for advertising?

The only cards that really count

Are that extremely small amount

From real friends who keep in touch

And are not rich but love us much

Some ways indeed are very odd

By which we hail the birth of God.

We raise the price of things in shops,

We give plain boxes fancy tops

And lines which traders cannot sell

Thus parcell’d go extremely well

We dole out bribes we call a present

To those to whom we must be pleasant

For business reasons. Our defence is

These bribes are charged against expenses

And bring relief in Income Tax

Enough of these unworthy cracks!

‘The time draws near the birth of Christ’.

A present that cannot be priced

Given two thousand years ago

Yet if God had not given so

He still would be a distant stranger

And not the Baby in the manger.

By John Betjeman


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