Monday, 7 December 2015

'A Christmas Candle' by Phyllis Taunton Wood

A CHRISTMAS CANDLE  by  Phyllis Taunton Wood

The lover of the world is born
Among the Sainfoin and the corn.
Dear Heart, forget your ancient pain                   
And make a home for him again.


Push in the stubborn door on rusty hinge,
And move the carpet with its ragged fringe;
Scour from the boards the long neglected grime
That all be sweet and clean for Christmas time.

Kindle upon the hearth a friendly blaze
To gladden every guest who hither strays.
Adorn the room with flowers you can bring;
Perhaps a Robin may alight and sing.

Comfort the tenant with your gentle cheer
Lest he despair to entertain you here.
At last, when Mary deems the room is fit,
Her darling baby may be born in it.

And rest within the room a happy space,
And welcome all his friends into the place;
For even a rude and uninvited guest
Is greeted lovingly at his behest.

The Ox and Ass, the Shepherd and the King,
Surround the cradle in a happy ring.
Last comer of the year, and first as well
Shall be the little lord Immanuel.

But You alone, O heavenly Housekeeper,
Could clear the lumber that was here.

 She did not long prepare
For Adam’s heir.

He found where beasts had fed
His little bed.

For so do men despise
The dim sunrise.

Doom of a subject race
He learned to face.

Caesar was master still
And had his will.

He made men’s bodies whole,
And won their soul.

But fear and sloth have part
In mortal heart.

A convict’s death his share,
But God dwells there.

That single-minded quest
Attained its rest.

And we at heart aspire
With like desire;

Though cherishing in shame
Another aim.

JESUS, we hope in you!
Redeem us too.

They kept a vigil for the early lambs,
Those nights of sudden cold,
Rough men that had a wisdom in their hands
To help the labouring ewe, and if they might,
Succour her black legged twins’ divided strength
With careful tending in the fold.

Absorbed in duty to the newly born,
Homage to sacred life,
The shepherds did not childishly complain
Of winter nights, and wind about their necks,
But old men watched the flame with patient eyes
While their sons dozed and stirred and slept again.

Then lightning tore the darkness, and a song
Lovely as light assailed
Their ears, and caught their spirits into joy:
And from the heart of light a trumpet voice
Cried of a Saviour born to set men free.
‘The Son of Man is bare of royal sign.
On straw he lies, with destiny divine.’

They might have hidden from the rose of fire
That crowned the zenith with a diadem,
And sworn such music inconceivable
Was out of all tradition, a wild dream;
But being prone to wonder they arose.
‘Let us now go’ they said, ‘to Bethlehem.’


Contending winds, hail from the bitter north
Buffet the early flowers that struggle forth.
O to reach down into sustaining earth,
The potent source of beauty ere its birth!

In this harsh season comes the Child again,
Unclothed, un-sheltered friend of pitiless men,
Whose flowering spirit dwells in fertile sod,
His root unshaken in the heart of God.


That time of fear,
The legions losing nerve,
Stung into quick reprisals for revolt,
While Zealots, blind with hate
And rancour, paid the unending price
To gain an earthly paradise.
Could mortals bloom for thee
In this sterility?

A soil rock-bound,
Fissured with earthquakes, bare
Of grass and gardens, and the green embrace
Of beech-woods and the yellow Iris, found
With Comfrey in a still, well watered place –
A pledge of bleak despair
Seemed then the human race;
Yet Jesus flowered to Thee,
White-petalled Cherry tree.

They cut it down:
But on our bitter stock
The gardener grafts that dazzling tree of might;
His seeds are left
In many a granite cleft,
And little buds of brown
Turn green, and stretch to long-stemmed cherry flowers.

Rise, Jesus, flower again
Among bewildered men!

Light holds empire
Upon the refluent tide of dark.
Though men’s confused desire
Delay the splendours of the dawn,
Yet can returning chaos drown
No kindled spark.
Fair Jesus, flower in me,
Immortal Cherry tree!


O little hands so soft and pitiful,
Too small to carry what you hold most dear,
No diffident or hopeless man need  fear
To take you, baby hands.

Large skilful hands inscribed with grip of tools
And wise in touch of throbbing flesh and wood,
A humble man will deem it very good
To clasp you, labouring hands.

O wounded hands, helpless & pierced & torn,
Strong hands that suffer more than need be borne.
O patient hands, nailed bleeding to a board –
Into thy hands, O Lord!

                      'A Christmas Candle' by Phyllis Taunton Wood.
                      Published by the Redlynch Press, London. W5.
(limited edition of 50)

Mrs Phyllis Taunton Wood, was a British poet and artist working in the mid 20th century. She was the wife of Sidney H. Wood, described as a leading English educator. Her first exhibition was in 1945 in Salisbury, when she exhibited oil paintings, w/colours, and wood engravings. Her poems in which she included her own hand-painted wood engravings, include 'Prayer of an Artist', 'Four Gates', 'Christmas Candle', 'Pilgrims Elixir', and 'Dark Valley'.

"God is surprisingly good and liberal towards a soul that heartily seeks Him.  Neither can past sins prove a hindrance to our becoming saints, if only we have the sincere desire to attain holiness."                                                                                        'Thoughts from St Alphonsus'

'Wishing you a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year.'

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