Christmas Day – The Family Sitting
by J Meade Falkner
(born 1858, died 1932)
In the days of Caesar Augustus
There went forth this decree:
Si quis rectus et justus
Liveth in Galilee,
Let him go up to Jerusalem
And pay his scot to me.
There are passed one after the other
Since I sat here with my mother
And heard the great decree:
How they went up to Jerusalem
Out of Galilee.
They have passed one after the other;
Father and mother died,
Brother and sister and brother
Taken and sanctified.
I am left alone in the sitting,
With none to sit beside.
On the fly-leaves of these old prayer-books
The childish writings fade,
Which show that once they were their books
In the days when prayer was made
For other kings and princesses,
William and Adelaide.
The pillars are twisted with holly,
And the font is wreathed with yew,
Christ forgive me for folly,
Youth’s lapses — not a few,
For the hardness of my middle life,
For age’s fretful view.
Cotton-wool letters on scarlet,
All the ancient lore,
Tell how the chieftains starlit
To Bethlehem came to adore;
To hail Him King in the manger,
The bells ring out in the steeple
The gladness of erstwhile,
And the children of other people
Are walking up the aisle;
They brush my elbow in passing,
Some turn to give me a smile.
Is the almond-blossom bitter?
Is the grasshopper heavy to bear?
Christ make me happier, fitter
To go to my own over there:
Jerusalem the Golden,
What bliss beyond compare!
My Lord, where I have offended
Do Thou forgive it me.
That so when, all being ended,
I hear Thy last decree,
I may go up to Jerusalem
Out of Galilee.
A HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL BLOG READERS
J Meade Falkner is better known for his novels, but this poem was chosen by Philip Larkin for his anthology, The Oxford Book of 20th Century Verse.
The picture is from the Geograph Project, and is by Mike Pennington. The caption is: 'Watchnight service, Christmas Eve, Old Rattray. Fog wreathes the church; inside the watchnight service has begun. Listen carefully - you may be able to hear the sleigh bells above the chorus of Silent Night.'