Christmas Greetings

Today’s tea, prosaically, was garden-variety Yorkshire Breakfast, because sometimes we enjoy something straightforward. Also, we’d run out of Advent doors and didn’t get enough of a chance to stop for long enough to faff about with leaves and infusers. Mind, there’s a lot of good to be said for Yorkshire tea. It’s well suited to our hard water, and it steeps quickly, which is nice first thing in the morning.

Also on today’s agenda were various relatives, Dachshund misadventures, and Miss Marschallin’s Christmas Sock, the contents of which was declared a success. Well, it was if you weren’t the unfortunate Valarian Gingerbread Man, who is now in for a lifetime of ritual slaughter. Ah well, she’s delighted.

Here’s a poem as the day wraps up. It’s called Christmas Night, and we suppose tonight qualifies. It’s lovely, and captures something of the flatness that comes after the bustle and rush of the day is winding down. Relatives gone home, paper recycled, gifts put away, all that lot. SO put the kettle on and enjoy.

Christmas Night
Conrad Hilberry

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur – last one can blow

the streetlights out. IF children sleep
after the day’s unfolding, the wheel
of gifts and fries, may their breathing
ease the strange hollowness we feel.

Let midnight draw whoever’s left
to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls
low mutterings of smoke until
a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.


Didn’t we say it was lovely? Here’s hoping it unwinds your day, or holiday a little going forward. Best wishes and a happy Christmas  from us, Miss Marschallin and the misadventures Dawlish Dachshunds!

On Christmas Eve

It’s been a whirlwind of a day. Ravine walks, extracting gremlins from electronic monstrosities, eleventh hour wrapping and shortbread baking…it goes on. The annual watch of The Blue Carbuncle featured somewhere. Christmas Eve is always crammed with stuff, and this year is no exception.

Sneaking in at the end of it is our final blog write up for this year’s calendar. It’s a black tea we know well, called Santa’s Secret. It blends peppermint and black tea, and for our money is the best of these ‘sweet’ teas. It’s sweet, and has a real extravagant, desert-quality feel to it, but it isn’t saccharine, either. The mint sits comfortably with the black tea and they keep each other in check, the perfect balance of strong and long in the mouth. This is how to reinvent tea well.

We also reiterate the other day’s recantation. We stand by the fact that this calendar’s balance is skewered bizarrely, but there do seem to be nearly equal parts herbal and non-herbal teas. It’s just that all the variety came at the beginning and the end, making for a few very unbalanced weeks of tea drinking. It’s good to know the calendar can still do variety.

Here to close out the year is a carol that purports to be by Walter Scott. We say that; there are lines of this that we know for a fact belong in Marmion. There are other lines that we’re fairly sure Shaw added in because he liked them. Oh, the joys of carols, eh? THere’s a reason no one ever seems to be able to agree on both lyrics and tune, and why we each of us think ours is right.

Merry Christmas
Adapted from Walter Scott

On Christmas Eve the bells were run,
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung;
The damsel don’t her kirtle sheen,
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood the merry men go
To gather in the mistletoe;

Then drink to the holly berry,
With hey down, hey own derry!
The mistletoe we’ll pledge also
And at Christmas all be merry,
At Christmas all be merry!

The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
Then come the merry masquers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din.

England is merry England,
When Old Christmas brings his ports again
Then drink to the holly berry, etc

We wanted to find you a vocal arrangement to go with it, but luck was not on our side. And while, theoretically we’re not averse to singing it into this particular monstrosity for you, it’s late and all residents not Miss Marschallin would be objected by the lack of consideration. But if you happen to know of a favourite version, point us towards us or send us a link.

Until then, Happy Christmas from us, Miss Marschallin and the Dawlish Dachshunds!

The Business of Cats

We’re tempted to hand this one over to Miss Marschallin, quite frankly. It’s called Valarian Nights, an not for nothing, but Miss Marschallin adores valerian. More even than catnip, and she loves catnip.

A funny thing about valerian; it puts humans to sleep but it revs cats up like nothing on earth. Valerian Dolphin (the one handmade in Germany that we had to replace after much improbable internet googling) remains her stand-out cat toy by a country mile.

So, Valarian Nights. Presumably intended to wake up your drowsy feline around the same time you drift off to sleep. Possibly simultaneously. Ever tried having milky tea with a cat around? We’re assuming a similar principle is in effect here.

Anyway, we didn’t give it to Miss Marschallin. Her schedule was taken up with murdering the carpet. It’s evil, is our carpet. It’s staging a coupe with the green chairs. They’re conspiring for independence, or maybe a Dawlarture (that’s Dawlish Departure, if you too were wondering) or something. Must be stopped. Anyway. Tea.

It tastes surprisingly of apple, which is good because we’ve never had much love for Camomile, which is mixed in with the valerian root for good measure. Good luck to anyone staying awake and drinking this cup. But it’s a pleasant sleepy-time tea, thus proving anything is indeed possible. Up to and probably including the departure of the furniture in a fit of outrage from the house. Or something. Look, I don’t keep up-to-date with Miss Marschallin’s internal politics. That way madness lies.

Point is, there is a veritable cat parliament out there, and they need valerian to keep on top of the murderous rugs and plotting chairs.

We’d send you pictures but the tablet is throwing a spectacular strop. So here is a poem, with pictures, and credit to Medium-large.com for managing to do with this poem what we cannot.

Poem by Kevin Fang, photo credit medium-large.com

 

Advent IV: Prose and Christmas Cake

This last stint of Advent is sponsored by Spontaneous Congregant Participation, ensuring you never know what you’ll be asked to do next! A special mention to the Wheely Donkey Manufacturers, keeping Sunday Schools everywhere in clean, reliable, portable donkeys for every occasion, forever and ever, world without end, amen.

To start with,we recant. Today’s black tea makes for 9 non-herbal teas out of 24, and even if the next two join the herbal ranks, that’s still a better balance than we were anticipating. There weren’t enough oolongs, but there are never enough oolongs.

Anyway, today’s tea is Satsuma Spice Cake, a foursome name that purports to be packed full of sweet caramelised citrus. Think Christmas Cake in a cup. N.B. There’s some fierce competition here, because Kusmi Tea does a black tea blend that really is Christmas Cake in a cup and it’s a staple of our tea cupboard. It has a very different taste, though. While Kusmi’s tea is a sturdy black blend with cloves, spices and the odd bit of caramelised orange, this is much sweeter.

We happen to quite like it. The satsuma comes through strongly, and it’s probably the use of satsuma rather than garden variety orange that adds an extra burst of sweetness. There is some additive sugar, but it’s largely there to bring out existing flavours. Of course, as we say, it does add a bit of extra sweetness, and Christmas cake puritans will probably prefer Kusmi’s Christmas Tea blend. It’s darker, subtler and without the sweeter.

But sweetness have been the harmonising note throughout this calendar. The tisanes use stevia, this black tea uses sugar. Still others had candy cane or marshmallow outright. With the exception of the marshmallows, we mostly enjoyed it, but we do gently suggest that sometimes tea is allowed to just be tea. Add the orange peel and the caramelised bits and bobs by all means, but it doesn’t have to be sweet. It can be tart, or tannin-heavy, or potently gingery; the variety is partly what brings us tea-drinkers back, especially to Advent Calendars like this. One of our favourite teas remains a daring blend of almond and liquorice root in oolong; it smelled awful but it brewed the loveliest cup of tea. We were sorry when it was discontinued.

Coming back to Satsuma Spice, though, and talking of taste, it’s that rare tea that doesn’t grow bitter with steeping. Anyone who’s ever left a black tea alone too long or not rescued a tea infuser from an oolong or jasmine in time will appreciate this. Here the satsuma sufficiently overwhelms the tannin that it keeps the tea pleasantly citrusy. And the stronger it gets, the more it tastes of Christmas cake and less of additive. Indeed, as we sit here taking our notes, it is shaping up to be a lovely tea. We may yet go tea shopping in the New Year.

Here’s a nice, long poem to read while it steeps. No Christmas Cake, but gingerbread houses get a mention. If you’ve ever attempted one you’ll appreciate the frustration they can generate – more than just cause for begetting poetry.

Advent
Mary Jo Salter

Wind whistling, as it does
in winter, and I think

nothing of it until

it snaps a shutter off
her bedroom window, spins

it over the roof and down

to crash on the deck in back,
like something out of Oz.

We look up, stunned—then glad

to be safe and have a story,
characters in a fable

we only half-believe.

Look, in my surprise
I somehow split a wall,

the last one in the house

we’re making of gingerbread.
We’ll have to improvise:

prop the two halves forward

like an open double door
and with a tube of icing
cement them to the floor.
Five days until Christmas,
and the house cannot be closed.

When she peers into the cold

interior we’ve exposed,
she half-expects to find

three magi in the manger,

a mother and her child.
She half-expects to read

on tablets of gingerbread

a line or two of Scripture,
as she has every morning

inside a dated shutter

on her Advent calendar.
She takes it from the mantel

and coaxes one fingertip

under the perforation,
as if her future hinges
on not tearing off the flap
under which a thumbnail picture
by Raphael or Giorgione,

Hans Memling or David

of apses, niches, archways,
cradles a smaller scene

of a mother and her child,

of the lidded jewel-box
of Mary’s downcast eyes.

Flee into Egypt, cries

the angel of the Lord
to Joseph in a dream,
for Herod will seek the young
child to destroy him. While
she works to tile the roof

with shingled peppermints,

I wash my sugared hands
and step out to the deck

to lug the shutter in,

a page torn from a book
still blank for the two of us,
a mother and her child.

Our Christmas tradition is Christmas cake, not gingerbread houses, and personally, we’re sticking to it. We’ve done both and while the cake dough takes two to mix, it begets far fewer tears. Trust us on this one.

We’ll leave you this Advent IV with the Advent Prose. Somehow our church never gets to them sooner, and coming from a background where we opened the Advent season with them, we’re perplexed by the choice every year. Three times is a tradition etc cetera, ad infinitum.

 

Sleigh Rides and Snow Sprites

Today’s herbal tea is Sleigh Ride. The ingredients rattle off a whole thwack of stuff mixed into the blend, but all we could taste was the hibiscus and cinnamon. It’s a curious, tart combination, but not an unpleasant one. We’re reminded faintly, drinking it, of rhubarb crumbles we used to make. Of course, there’s none of the sweetness the descriptive tag features, but maybe we didn’t let it steep long enough. As established, the art of getting one of these tisanes to steep has eluded us all month. Mind, it had time enough; the pot sat there for a good ten minutes while we did auxiliary kitchen chores.

It doesn’t particularly remind us of sleigh rides, we have to say. We used to ski out west, and you could sign up for sleigh rides of the horse-and-sleigh variety. There was hot apple cider afterwards, and we roasted marshmallows over candles. Nothing about it involved hibiscus, and while there’s apple somewhere in this tea, the hibiscus drowns it. (It drowns the raisins too, because as discussed, raisins don’t really come through in any tea at any strength.)

So we are mostly sipping this tea and thinking how lovely and tangy and tart it is. Warm enough for winter, though, and on that note, here’s a wintery poem to pair with it.

The Snow Fairy
Claude McKay
I
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol’n away.
     II
And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter’s night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light.
My heart was like the weather when you came,
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long;
But you, with joy and passion all aflame,
You danced and sang a lilting summer song.
I made room for you in my little bed,
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm,
A downful pillow for your scented head,
And lay down with you resting in my arm.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,

The lonely actor of a dreamy play.

Perhaps our favourite part of poetry, and indeed of hunting down poems for this blog is the discovery of new phrases. You can bet anything you like that snowflakes hereafter are snow-sprites to us. It’s too lovely an image not to nick into everyday parlance, don’t you think?

Hot Chocolate (Tea)

Hot Chocolate today. No, not the drink. Well, sort of a drink. But not the drink; not hot chocolate. Not the kind made up with hot milk, cocoa powder, cream mixed in for extra richness. No, this is a tea and it’s called Hot Chocolate, purely to make this blogging thing we do an exercise in confusion.

It’s a pu’erh tea, which makes it the eighth non-herbal tea in this month’s selection. We’re almost at 33% ! That’s almost balanced! Incidentally, because we weren’t sure last go, we went and dug more into the nature of pu’erh tea, and it turns out that like oolong, the leaves are partially fermented. No wonder we have such a good track record with it. Something about that process has always worked for us with oolongs, too.

It’s smokier than its predecessor, which you’ll recall also featured chocolate. Hot Chocolate (Tea) lacks the spices of S’mores Chai, though, and also unlike that chai, benefits from a dab of milk. It gives the chocolate a creaminess that blends nicely with the smokiness of the tea. It also stops it being overwhelmingly chocolatey, and as we’re still not chocolate in tea types, that’s not bad thing.

We associate it with ski lessons, and winter evenings in Scotland. But we’re in Canada at the moment, writing this off the back of watching the very Canadian Anne with an E. We know, we know, we’re behind by about three years, and we definitely have opinions. We’ll get to them some other night. For now, have on a related note, the equally Canadian L.M. Montgomery on winter.

A Winter Day
L. M. Montgomery

I
The air is silent save where stirs
A bugling breeze among the firs
The virgin world in white array
Waits for the bridegroom kiss of day;
All heaven blooms rarely in the east
Where skies are silvery and fleeced,
And o’er the orient hills made mad
The morning comes in wonder clad;
Oh, ’tis a time most fit to see
How beautiful the dawn can be!
II
Wide, sparkling  fields snow-vestured lie
Beneath a blue, unshadowed sky;
A glistening splendour crowns the woods
A bosky, whistling solitudes;
In hemlock glen and reedy mere
The tang of frost is sharp and clear;
Life hath a jollity and zest,
A poignancy made manifest;
Laughter and courage have their way
At noontide of a winter’s day.
III
Faint music rings in world and dell,
The tinkling of a distant bell,
Where homestead lights with friendly glow
Glimmer across the drifted snow;
Beyond a valley dim and far
Lit by an occidental star,
Tall pines the marge of day beset
Like many a slender minaret,
Whence priest-like winds on crystal air
Summon the reverent world to prayer.

She has a very particular fingerprint, doesn’t she? Anne comes by her rhapsodising honestly.

More Lessons in Teaming

Shall we tell you what doesn’t steep? We can’t believe it needs saying, but obviously it does, so here goes; marshmallows do not steep. Steep marshmallows do not. They might melt in hot water, we grant you, but there’s a reason no one is marketing marshmallow water or hot marshmallow gloop in coffee shops. You put them on cocoa and they go nicely halfway-liquid, but they do not infuse hot water.

Okay, they sort of steep. They must because what they are currently doing is melting into our lovely, lovely tea infuser and manifesting the most cloying herbal tisane – yes we’re back at tisanes – in creation. What they’re also doing is stopping what stuff does infuse from infusing, because it’s all sitting in melted marshmallow.

Why? Well, this year’s creative reimagining of Forever Nuts, which is by itself a charmingly spiced tisane we’re quite partial to, is Forever Frosty, and Forever Frosty is the Forever Nuts tea with bonus marshmallow, at least as far as we can tell.

Somewhere in here is a lovely tea with almonds, cinnamon, and we suspect nutmeg. We’d like to taste it but we can’t for the marshmallows. They taste soppy, and universe, tea should not be soppy!

Consequently, in a shocking turn of events, this is the first cup of tea from the calendar we won’t finish. There’s always one (it’s usually coffee-flavoured) and this is it this year. It’s probably lovely if you like marshmallow (we do not) or have a sweet tooth (we don’t particularly). Or maybe you just want a particularly watery tea. Though if that’s the case, just wave a teabag in the direction of some hot water. We guarantee it tastes better! Probably better for your teeth, too.

After all that, we’re more than a tad leery of the saccharine. With that in mind, here’s a poem about music – and sopranos particularly. Apparently we still can’t forgive last night’s tenor nicking the best soprano aria in The Messiah. Not when they had a first rate coloratura who was more than up to the part. Oh, and whatever else might say about this poem, it’s very definitely not cloying.

The fury of Guitars and Sopranos
Anne Sexton

This singing
is a kind of dying,
a kind of birth,
a votive candle.

I have a dream-mother
who sings with her guitar,
nursing the bedroom
with a moonlight and beautiful olives.

A flute came too,
joining the five strings,
a God finger over the holes.

I knew a beautiful woman once
who sang with her fingertips
and her eyes were brownlike small birds.

At the cup of her breasts
I drew wine.

At the mound of her legs
I drew figs.

She sang for my thirst,
mysterious songs of God
that would have laid an army down.

It was as if a morning-glory
had bloomed in her throat
and all that blue
and small pollen
ate into my heart
violent and religious.

As we say, emphatically not saccharine. Unlike some teas we could mention. Featuring marshmallows. But we’d never point fingers, like that. But tell you what, universe, do a proper herbal tomorrow, all right? Undiluted sage, or ginger root extract, or hibiscus or something. Anything. Just let it steep, and let it be strong, and for god’s sake let it be tea and not confectionary-turned-infusion. Please?

Answer to Armageddon

Not to be repetitive, but today’s tea is another herbal tisane. We went and cross-referenced after yesterday, and of seventeen teas, six have been non-herbal, which strikes us as a curious balance, considering the in-store selection. And while we like herbal tea fine, we’re officially asking for advice. Because we’ve done what it says on the tin. We’ve let the tea sit for ten minutes. We’ve spooned it one per person and one for the pot into the infuser. We’ve all but stuck a thermometer in the water to check it’s exactly so many degrees before boiling and it never, ever steeps adequately. Not with a fox, not in a box, nor on a train, plane or automobile. So, what are we doing wrong, internet? What do we have to do to get herbal tea from this calendar at a strength above anaemic?

Twenty minutes into tea-drinking we got a cup that was nicely pink (there’s hibiscus and rose in the mix) and not overly sweet. In fact, of the herbals we’ve sampled this month, Tulsi Tranquility is definitely a favourite. We’d say its tranquility in a cup, but quite frankly that’s all tea, any tea, any time of day.

It’s something we’ve been trying to explain to the people behind this calendar for ages. Tea doesn’t need to keep up with trends, bustle and blether. The whole point is that everything stops for tea. The joy of this calendar is that every day we must take twenty minutes out to not only make a pot but mull it over and take time out from more pressing considerations. It’s not a showy Advent discipline, but it’s soothing, and that’s tea at its level best.

Of course, we spoiled it all today by then haring off for the last dance of the month. It was our Tuesday social group wrapping up for the season, so there was a seven-couple dance (it was chaos), a formation called a Reverse Snowball Grand Chain (it was somehow short two bars in the brief, cue more chaos) and a whole lot of hobnobbing over biscuits. With tea, obviously. Because if you aren’t dancing nothing else is so readily unifying.

With that in mind, here’s a poem about the land just how vital it really is to the running of the universe.

Alternative Anthem
John Agard

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
Is the British answer
to Armageddon

Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
and that’s the kettle, mate.

It’s not whether you lose
It’s not whether you win
It’s whether or not
you’ve plugged the kettle in.

May the kettle ever hiss
May the kettle ever steam
It is the engine
that drives our nation’s dream.

Long live the kettle
that rules over us
May it be limescale free
and may it never rust.

Sing it on the beaches
Sing it from the housetops
The sun may set on empire
but the kettle never stops.

 

What do you think? Does the Brexit plan involve tea? Is that the thing they were missing? Crucially; has anyone told Downing St. lately that the answer to the vexed issue is in the teapot? Bet you Larry the Cat has at least tried. Tea all round it is. See you tomorrow – odds on with another herbal tea. But no bother, eh, so long as it averts Armageddon.

Experiments in Tea Drinking (With Apologies to Dachshunds)

We made a proper study of today’s tea for you. S’mores Chai is a pu’ehr blend with chocolate lacing it for good measure. The name was sufficiently confusing that we tried it with milk and sugar on the second cup; chai is just about the one tea that benefits from being milked and sweetened if you know how. So, we find, do chocolate teas, because the creaminess of the dairy works well with the chocolate pieces.

Not so this tea, which is much better plain. It’s not so much chocolatey (in spite of what it says on the tin) as it is spiced; there’s lots of cinnamon in there, and it risks being overwhelmed by milk. Mind, the sugar reemphasised it nicely, so while it doesn’t need it, it’s certainly a tea that might benefit from a bit of extra sweetness. And really, by the point you’re sitting down to a cup of pu’erh with honest-to-goddess pieces of marshmallow in the blend, is anyone keeping track of calories? Maybe that’s a quirk of ours. We never bother with hot chocolate either; we figure there’s no point in doing the thing by halves and make it properly rich. A similar policy works well with this tea, and you can bet we’ll be circling back to it.

Of course, the whole leisurely tea process offended the Dawlish Dachshunds, not least because they didn’t get to sample any. Honestly, they really do love chocolate! They think. They dream. They’ve never been allowed to sample any. So we’re making it up to them now with this charming poem dedicated to Dachshunds everywhere. And you thought we’d used up the Dachshund poetry quota!

img_3810

Dachshunds
William J. Smith

The Dachshund leads a quiet life
Not far above the ground;

He takes an elongated wife,
They travel all around.

They leave the lighted metropole;
Nor turn to look behind
Upon the headlands of the soul,
The tundras of the mind.

They climb together through the dusk
To ask the Lost-and-Found
For information on the stars
Not far above the ground.

The Dachshunds seem to journey on:
And following them, I
Take up my monocle, the Moon,
And gaze into the sky.

Pursuing them with comic art
Beyond the cosmic goal,
I see the whole within the part,
The part within the whole;

See planets wheeling overhead,
Mysterious and slow,
While morning buckles on his red,
And on the Dachshunds go.

img_3731.jpg

Z is for Zest, Ginger and Spice!

Rejoice! This week in Advent is sponsored by the Doors Wide Open Policy; we leave your doors open and watch as all the heat exits them pursued by shivering congregants! Coming to a church near you sharpish. It’s doing double duty with the perennial classic O Antiphons Inc, and honestly, what is it about high Anglicanism in Canada that vetoes all sequencing hymns not heavily mired in plainchant. Other churches can and do use other stuff – we’ve sung at them. Lots. Finally, there’s an honourable mention to Canadian-Grade Winter Coats, guaranteed to keep you warm whether you face subarctic weather or a failure in the central heating system. They’re marketing a new line in choral cassocks, so conductors, take note.

Okay, so church was freezing.  And the doors were inexplicably open, and the heating system was (as ever as per the end of Advent) protesting the apocalypse or something. Also, the sermon was meandering and underwhelming but since we aren’t in the business of outperforming the priest with sermons, we try not to cast that stone. Besides, the the rose vestments were out, the music was good, and the tea at the Agape was hot. (It isn’t always, cf last Christmas morning. We suspect it was a ploy to get shot of us.)

Today’s tea is another rooibos. It’s called Super Ginger and bills itself as being spicy, sweet, and comforting. We don’t know about sweet – has anyone ever labelled ginger sweet ? – but we’ll vouch for the other two.

Mind, if you don’t like ginger, there’s no salvaging this tea for you. We do, and we think that it’s the perfect compliment to the already zingy rooibos. There’s not really a lot to dissect with this one though, because it does what it says on the tin. It’s gingery in spades. Did our diatribe about the spontaneous inclusion of raisins get through to someone? We’re adding it to the list of things to rejoice about anyway.

And while we do that, here’s a poem for your Gaudete Sunday. It’s fun, playful, and irreverent. As ginger and zing go, you don’t do much better than Chesterton’s wit as displayed here.

Variations of an Air 
G.K. Chesterton

Composed on Having to Appear in a Pageant as Old King Cole

Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe,
He called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

after Lord Tennyson

Cole, that unwearied prince of Colchester,
Growing more gay with age and with long days
Deeper in laughter and desire of life
As that Virginian climber on our walls
Flames scarlet with the fading of the year;
Called for his wassail and that other weed
Virginian also, from the western woods
Where English Raleigh checked the boast of Spain,
And lighting joy with joy, and piling up
Pleasure as crown for pleasure, bade me bring
Those three, the minstrels whose emblazoned coats
Shone with the oyster-shells of Colchester;
And these three played, and playing grew more fain
Of mirth and music; till the heathen came
And the King slept beside the northern sea.

after Swinburne

In the time of old sin without sadness
And golden with wastage of gold
Like the gods that grow old in their gladness
Was the king that was glad, growing old:
And with sound of loud lyres from his palace
The voice of his oracles spoke,
And the lips that were red from his chalice
Were splendid with smoke.

When the weed was as flame for a token
And the wine was as blood for a sign;
And upheld in his hands and unbroken
The fountains of fire and of wine.
And a song without speech, without singer,
Stung the soul of a thousand in three
As the flesh of the earth has to sting her,
The soul of the sea.

after Robert Browning

Who smoke-snorts toasts o’ My Lady Nicotine,
Kicks stuffing out of Pussyfoot, bids his trio
Stick up their Stradivarii (that’s the plural
Or near enough, my fatheads; nimium
Vicina Cremonce; that’s a bit too near.)
Is there some stockfish fails to understand?
Catch hold o’ the notion, bellow and blurt back “Cole”?
Must I bawl lessons from a horn-book, howl,
Cat-call the cat-gut “fiddles”? Fiddlesticks!

after W.B. Yeats

Of an old King in a story
From the grey sea-folk I have heard
Whose heart was no more broken
Than the wings of a bird.

As soon as the moon was silver
And the thin stars began,
He took his pipe and his tankard,
Like an old peasant man.

And three tall shadows were with him
And came at his command;
And played before him for ever
The fiddles of fairyland.

And he died in the young summer
Of the world’s desire;
Before our hearts were broken
Like sticks in a fire.

after Walt Whitman

Me clairvoyant,
Me conscious of you, old camarado,
Needing no telescope, lorgnette, field-glass, opera-glass, myopic pince-nez,
Me piercing two thousand years with eye naked and not ashamed;
The crown cannot hide you from me,
Musty old feudal-heraldic trappings cannot hide you from me,
I perceive that you drink.
(I am drinking with you. I am as drunk as you are.)
I see you are inhaling tobacco, puffing, smoking, spitting
(I do not object to your spitting),
You prophetic of American largeness,
You anticipating the broad masculine manners of these States;
I see in you also there are movements, tremors, tears, desire for the melodious,
I salute your three violinists, endlessly making vibrations,
Rigid, relentless, capable of going on for ever;
They play my accompaniment; but I shall take no notice of any accompaniment;
I myself am a complete orchestra.
So long.

There’s nothing like a good literary joke, is there? Spare a thought for it next time the Doors Wide Open Policy and failing heating systems get a hold of your church. But if that doesn’t work for you, we’ll leave you with our pet Gaudete Sunday Anthem. Enjoy! And rejoice greatly!