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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Winter Tale

Abroad on a winter's night there ran
Under the starlight, leaping the rills,
Swollen with snow-drip from the hills,
Goat-legged, goat-bearded Pan.

He loved to run on the crisp white floor,
Where black hill-torrents chiseled grooves,
And he loved to print his clean-cut hooves
Where none had trod before.

And now he slacked and came to a stand
Beside a river too broad to leap;
And as he panted he heard a sheep
That bleated near at hand.

"Bellwether, Bellwether, what do you say?
Peace, and huddle your ewes from cold!"
"Master, but when we went to fold,
Our herdsman hastened away!

"Over the hill came other twain,
And pointed away to Bethlehem,
And spake with him, and he followed them,
And has not come again!

"He dropped his pipe of the river reed;
He left his scrip in his haste to go;
And all our grazing is under snow,
So that we cannot feed!"

"Left his sheep on a winter's night!"
Pan folded arms with an angry frown.
"Bellwether, Bellwether, I'll go down
Where the star is shining bright!"

Down by the hamlet he met the man.
"Shepherd, no shepherd! Thy flock is lorn!"
"Master, oh Master, a child is born
Royal, greater than Pan!"

"Lo, I have seen; I go to my sheep.
Follow my footsteps through the snow.
But warily, warily see thou go
For child and mother sleep."

Into the stable yard Pan crept,
And there in a manger the baby lay
Beside his mother on the hay
And mother and baby slept.

Pan bent over the sleeping child,
Gazed on him, panting after his run.
And while he wondered the little one
Opened his eyes and smiled.

Smiled and after a little space
Struggled his arm from the swaddling-band,
And raising a tiny dimpled hand,
Patted the bearded face.

Something snapped in the breast of Pan;
His heart, his throat, his eyes were sore.
And he wished to weep as never before
Since the world began.

And out he went to the silly sheep,
To the fox on the hill, the fish in the sea,
The horse in the stall, the bird in the tree,
Asking them how to weep.

They could not teach, they did not know;
The law stands writ for the beast that's dumb.
That a limb may ache and a heart be numb
But never a tear may flow.

So bear you kindly today, O Man,
To all that is dumb and all that's wild;
For the sake of the Christmas Babe who smiled
In the eyes of the great God Pan.

-Frank Sidgwick

4 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Lovely piece...is it an old one?

Austan said...

Yeah, I found it in a library book of holiday poems. I think it was published in 1923, if memory serves. The book has been retired since I last took it out; it's not in their catalog anymore. A shame, really, but it was very beaten up.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

Bit of a dichotomy.

How can you have the "Son of God" [The God who according to the bible is the one and only]
being looked on by another god.

Reality clash.

Sorry

Fantasy Clash

Austan said...

TSB! Ah, but the bible says, "Have no other gods before me" so it admits there are others.