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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - "Christmas" by George Cooper

Holiday Greetings!

Would love to report that I'm perched by the fireplace, woolen-shawl-wrapped and book in hand, sipping cinnamon tea while my sparkly and symmetrically decorated Christmas tree winks from the corner...

Alas, I'm burning the candle at both ends with piles of to-do's around still to be done. You?

Well, even in the chaos, I am grateful for the wonderful folks who people and interrupt my life, and for the light they share and reflect from the Source.

Those Victorians knew how to wax eloquently about the holiday. Below is a poem from the December 26, 1896 edition of GOLDEN DAYS for Boys and Girls published in Philadelphia by James Elverson. This is the newsprint magazine that yielded those mini-ornament found poems from a couple of weeks ago. In fact, would you believe I found one more teeny frame this week in my studio? I'm sure this is the last one like this. Missing its wee bit of hardware, but I improvised.

First, the poem by George Cooper (American, 1840-1927), who wrote many song lyrics:


A world of white that flushes with the smiles
            of morn;
      A gladsome whisper breathing what to
            earth befell -
The babe - the loving Saviour in the manger
      And the bells up in the steeple ringing
            ding, dong, bell!

A message form the forest clad in icy mail;
      A twitter from a birdie that its glee must
A rousing crow from far and near the dawn
            to hail,
      And the bells up in the steeple ringing
            ding, dong, bell!

Oh, gentle breath of kindness on the ting-
            gling air!
      Oh, the gleaming sky that weaves its pure and
            holy spell!
Oh, rippling laugh of childhood waking
      And the bells up in the steeple ringing
            ding, dong, bell!

The patter over all the world of little feet;
      Ah, ringed is wintry earth with joy no
            heart may tell!
And so the year is rounded with delight so
      And the bells up in the steeple ringing
            ding, dong, bell!

"A merry, merry Christmas!" pipe the winds
            at play;
"A merry, merry Christmas!" echo vale and
"A merry, merry Christmas!" dancing wave-
            lets say,
      With the bells up in the steeple ringing
            ding, dong, bell!

Mr. Cooper seems to have enjoyed exclamation points, perhaps even more than I do. (!) I must admit being smitten, though, by "the forest clad in icy mail" and those "dancing wavelets." Lovely.

Elsewhere in this edition I did clip one more found poem ornament, dangling in the photo above. This one reads:


            is contagious,

be merry

            For this one day,
be merry with heart

(This came from a little editorial section without direct attribution, just titled, "MERRY CHRISTMAS.") Thanks to you all for buying up the micro-found-poem trio of ornaments I featured before; this one's in my Etsy shop if anyone's interested - ;0) . I posted a few "process" pictures over on my art blog today http://artsyletters.com/?p=1271 .

Whatever your own faith tradition, I wish you at least a few exclamation-point-worthy moments of delight this season, especially in a world with so many dark corners. I'm sure you'll find all kinds of enlightenment over at Check it Out , where the always-creative Jone has our Roundup this week, and an invitation for a poem postcard exchange sure to brighten the darkest days of winter. (Enjoy her own beautiful haiku in the examples, too!)

[Friday morning update - a wonderful Poetry Friday person snatched up the new ornament early; thank you! Also, hitting the road for a family wedding today - will keep all in thoughts even if my responses are delayed. ]
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Rita the Christmas Chihuahua looks ahead to a sparkling New Year...

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

For a few cups of kindness and delicious poetry, go see the beautiful and generous Irene at Live Your Poem. [I wrote that BEFORE I clicked over to see what she's been up to lately... See how the Universe works?]
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Happy Birthday to A CHRISTMAS CAROL

PRE-POST DISCLAIMER - Okay, I was an English major, not a math major. For some reason I was subtracting 1843 from 2013, not 2012! I was jumping ahead at the New Year. Oh, well, so it's the story's 169th birthday, not 170th! :0! We'll still celebrate....

I know, technically A CHRISTMAS CAROL is not a poem, but a novella, now perhaps best known as a play. But when I stumbled on the fact that it will celebrate its 170th birthday on Monday, I thought we could celebrate it anyway. [See note above. I had the wrong year - it's still 2012!]

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) wrote his story of Ebenezer Scrooge's change of heart in six (!) short weeks, and it debuted December 17, 1843. It was an immediate public and critical success.

In the preface, he wrote:

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.

If you haven't read the story or seen the play recently, here's our Mr. Scrooge at the beginning:

At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.
'You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?' said Scrooge.
'If quite convenient, sir.'
'It's not convenient,' said Scrooge, 'and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?'
The clerk smiled faintly.
'And yet,' said Scrooge, 'you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work.'
The clerk observed that it was only once a year.
'A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!' said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. 'But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.'

Then, in a fitful night, our protagonist is visited by three spirits - the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Let's just say the scenes they lay before Scrooge convince him to change his ways.

Here's a peek at a portion near the very end of the story:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."

I love the description, "his own heart laughed."

We never tire of stories of redemption, do we? Perhaps this is why A CHRISTMAS CAROL thrives even today, so many years after it was penned by Dickens.

Wishing you a laughing heart this holiday season, I'll close with the last line of A CHRISTMAS CAROL:

...And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

For the entire text, visit the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library .

For some more fun history, try the McCarter Theatre Center (Princeton) website.

You can also see a facsimile of Dickens's original manuscript at the online home of one of my favorite places on the planet, the Morgan Library and Museum (New York).

PS - Mom, if you're reading this, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you TODAY!!!!!

Now, for some great poetry this mid-December, go see what lovely holiday treats delightful Jama is cooking up at Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Round-up.
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