Although you could probably make a good argument that this post is more appropriate for January 7th, almost no one outside a small group of insiders could tell you why.
So, in praxis, what follows is most appropriate today.
It’s the final lines of W.H. Auden’s “For the Time Being,” a long drama that he called “A Christmas Oratorio.” First published in 1945, it has become a Christmas tradition for some, including me.
And it has been the inspiration for all sorts of other artistic dreaming including, among other things, this title.
The passage I’m posting the below is the very end, the last lines, of this long Christmas drama. The main speaker is the “Narrator,” who in my head is something akin to the narrator of “Our Town.”
I’ll just post it now with little more comment. Except to say that, IMHO, there really are no more perfect words for the day.
From W.H. Auden’s “For the Time Being”
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes
Some have got broken and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.
There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted quite unsuccessfully
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.
As in previous years we have seen the actual
Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable Possibility,
Once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep his word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.
But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this.
To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self -reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering.
So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.
In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practise his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will he done, that, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
He is is Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.”