A Christmas Childhood

My tree is decorated, the weather is finally cold, and our silly little office lights are on. Time for another Patrick Kavanagh poem:


    A Christmas Childhood
    My father played the melodion
    Outside at our gate;
    There were stars in the morning east;
    And they danced to his music.

    Across the wild bogs his melodion called
    To Lennons and Callans.
    As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
    I knew some strange thing had happened.

    Outside in the cow-house my mother
    Made the music of milking;
    The light of her stable-lamp was a star
    And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

    A water-hen screeched in the bog,
    Mass-going feet
    Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
    Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

    My child poet picked out the letters
    On the grey stone,
    In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
    The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

    Cassiopeia was over
    Cassidy’s hanging hill,
    I looked and three whin bushes rode across
    The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

    An old man passing said:
    “Can’t he make it talk” –
    The melodion, I hid in the doorway
    And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

    I nicked six nicks on the door-post
    With my penknife’s big blade –
    There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
    And I was six Christmases of age.

    My father played the melodion,
    My mother milked the cows,
    And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
    On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.


The full poem is actually longer; I can’t find the first four stanzas online. I copied the whole thing into five or six of my Christmas cards on Saturday night. Then I got bored and far too inky to continue.