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. Once again
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
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice 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 be done,
That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.

W. H. Auden
Christmas Oratorio

Showing 5 comments
  • Amen!

  • AmyH

    Thank you for posting this.

  • Di

    “When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
    Without even a hostile audience,”



  • James Christian Lewis

    While on the topic of post-Christmas, I have started reading your History of the Ancient World that I requested as a Christmas gift. There is no mention of Adam (at least he is not in the index)? Why? You mention other men who were said to have lived before written history. Why not Adam? Your preface indicates your willingness to “begin this history at the point where particular human lives and audible human voices emerge…” Does not the account of Adam in Genesis satisfy this criteria? Is the story of Alulim more defined in your mind ? I welcome your reply. Thank you. J. Christian Lewis, W&M, Class of 89
    P.S. Our family has benefitted greatly from your history series for our homeschooling efforts and the Well Trained Mind for guidance. Thank you.

  • BillBurgher

    WRL’s initial announcement and subsequent responses to inquiries by the Executive Director and Board remind me of when I lived in the world of a big corporation where announcements of bad news use the passive/middle voice, and contain non sequitors and lots of weasel words. Let’s face it, you aren’t going to get more than that from Mr. Moorman and his board.They don’t want to throw the York County t**d in the punch bowl of public discussion. It’s easier for them that way.

    As I thought more about the “6000” non-residents cut off by the change in circulation policy, it dawned on me that those 6000 cards don’t necessarily represent 6000 households since many in the same household have their own card. I think the Board chose the lesser of two evils. Cut off a few thousand households or risk losing York county’s annual contribution of $500K, which is approximately 10% of the library’s annual operating budget.
    I think Mr. Moorman and his board also want to maintain their financial credibility with the JCC BOS and Williamsburg City Council. Remember, they returned $200K in unspent budget to JCC last year.

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