Twelve of the Clock

We were on terrible choral form tonight, singing the descants from the congregation. On the other hand, the chap beside us was clearly singing the tenor line from the congregation, so clearly the choristers of St Thomas’s accept that this is a thing erstwhile choristers do. We’re running with it.

The thing you have to understand is that there are some hymns, like Hark the Herald we can only sing harmony on. We’d have to think far harder about how the melody of verse three goes than if we belted the descant. Ditto the Sing choirs of angels bit in O Come, All Yea Faithful. That’s a bit different though, because years as a specifically British chorister conditioned us to sing Cantet nunc io, cantent agnelorum. We don’t know what it is about Canadian Anglicans that they eschew a good Latin carol when it’s handed to them like that. But ah, well. No one’s hit us on the nose for our congregational descants yet, so we’ll cut them some slack. Tis the season, and that.

We tell you all this because we’ve just squeaked back from midnight mass. It’s supposed to be the Snowstorm of the Century, and for our money the year we had the ice quakes was worse. Okay, so It’s -10 feeling colder out, but the snow has stopped and that first year we moved back it stuck stubbornly at -30 all December. In fact, we walked home from Mass in -30 that year. It wasn’t ideal.

But all that aside, we’re thawing to a late-night cup of Sugerplum Fairy. You’re thinking this is a herbal plum tea, aren’t you? So were we. But it’s pears. Yes, yes, we know. Sugarplum but flavoured with pear. Look, we just report the facts. We don’t try to explain the logic of the eponymous David. Quite honestly, he feels weirdly God-like when we write this blog, in an Old Testament sort of way. A bit whimsical, a bit judgmental, and prone to totally inexplicable decisions. Like naming a tea centred around pears after the Sugarplum Fairy. You think they’d at least pick the dance of the dancing pears from The Nutcracker for this, yes?

  There’s a hint of Christmas spices here, but it’s predominantly a sweet tea. We think it could be a really lovely green tea – the tannin would balance out the sweetness nicely.

Speaking of, that’s 24 days of no green tea. We did discover over breakfast, when we drank Santa’s Secret properly, that it was a green-black hybrid, but we’re not sure that counts. Talk about bizarre decisions.

But you know what they didn’t do this year? They didn’t do that awful coffee-tea hybrid thing we always end up ranting about. You didn’t notice, did you? We never once had to lecture David and Co on how coffee isn’t tea and never the twain shall meet. Is it possible someone reads this blog?

In case they do, we’d better end with something sensible. We know tonight’s tea has a Nutcracker theme, but Thomas Hardy is our tradition. Besides, no one writes a better Christmas Eve poem. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. So, enjoy The Oxen.

The Oxen
Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Doesn’t he do the loveliest and most unexpected things with wordplay? It’s in the books too, but gets obscured by the sheer agony of, say, Tess. You can pay more attention to linguistic playfulness in Hardy’s poetry because he’s not always battering your heart into fine pieces. Look at the rhymes, too. He’s got a rare gift for true rhyme, and some of them are not obvious.

But enough of that. No oxen kneeling here, but Dachshunds sleeping. That’s this chorister’s cue. Happy Christmas from the Dawlish Dachshunds, the Marscahllin- Cat and the resident Chorister at Home.

Go forth and make a joyful noise, with or without descants. And drink a cup of Christmas tea for us.

With Apologies to Rocky

We nearly didn’t have today’s tea. Santa’s Secret is a black tea, and if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that we cannot have black tea when we have cramp. Not for the first 48 hours, anyway.

There’s a whole list in this vein, but that’s up at the top. But we feel mostly human at the moment, so we are drinking an extremely weak cup.

It shares a lot of DNA with Candy Cane Crush, but we think this does the same job better. For one thing, that awful candy cane film doesn’t feature. THere’s candy cane in the tea, but for whatever reason, you can brew Santa’s Secret without having to scrub everything furiously afterwards to get the melted sugar off.

For another, it’s a better balance of tea to sweetness. There’s just a hint of candy cane here. It’s less like drinking an after eight and more like drinking lightly flavoured black tea. We should be clear; We quite like the after eight taste of Candy Cane Crush, but it’s not for everyone. If you want a Christmassy black tea that you can serve to anyone, this is the better bet.

There’s not a lot to regale you with today. Supposedly it’s the snowstorm of the century. We spent most of it lying on the floor and Rocky Dachshund spent it climbing the walls. Buffy and hte Maschallin Cat, still the world’s oddest Accidental Double Act, spent it blissfully asleep.

We promised Rocky we would make it up to him by including a poem in tribute. The cat got one early on but all poor Mr Rocky has had is his reputation maligned. He only eats those coasters because no one else does, honest, guv. If it wasn’t necessary he’d eat something else instead, like carpets or cushions or maybe the Cat. But the cat keeps hitting his nose, so coasters it is.

Anyway, here’s a poem for Rocky about the joys of being a dog.

If Feeling Isn’t In It
John Brehm

You can take it away, as far as I’m concerned—I’d rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I’m not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play the ability to impart warmth, elation . . . .  
                                                                                   Howard Moss

Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can’t reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they’re dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don’t try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I’ve seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn’t come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she’s gone
and I’m tied to a post surrounded by people
who don’t look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It’s almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.

About Harbours, As Promised

When we resumed the blog this Advent, we introduced you to Rocky the Dachshund. Rocky is a tan Dachshund with a lovely white stripe down his front, and he is extremely charming. He is, in fact, Rockingham Napier, Charmer of WRENS. Alias: The Coaster Eater.

We can hear you already: Rocky would never! He is Extremely Cute! The friend in the Civil Service got there first and was more vocal.

Here’s the thing about Rocky Dachshund: He’s extremely cute and he could get away with murder. See further the coasters. What happens is that every morning, someone has their coffee. And because someone in this scenario has the memory of a goldfish, they leave the coaster on the coffee table. And along comes this very charming, very cute Coaster Eater, whose name rhymes with, let’s say Docky, and munches the cosater

Not a lot, you know. Just a little. A bite off the corner. A munch along the edges. It gives them unique shape, like. So, anyway, Docky-Maybe-Rocky munched the first coaster into pieces. We salvaged the second one. We’ve mostly been diligent about coasters three through six until this evening. Whereat the Coaster Eater cannibalised a whole coaster.

No one noticed. He popped up nice and surreptitious on one of the chairs, where he seized on the neglected coaster. Then he tok it back to his bed and ate it into a shadow of its former self. He did this nice and quietly, so no one heard him. The mess was spectacular. The Coaster Eater was extremely happy. Some, unreasonable human, might say unlawfully happy.

We now have two and three quarter coasters in this pattern, if you want to know.

It’s a nice pattern though, of the St Andrews harbour. We know the view well. Now we know it even better, because the plot twist of the evening was that we spent two hours chasing down the origins of this coaster set. And yes, yes, we have others. But everyone loves these ones. And the scenery makes them sentimental.

(And sometimes, we go to ridiculous lengths, as for instance, that time we hunted down a replacement valerian dolphin for the cat on a German-only website despite not speaking German.)

Finally, though, we found them and tried to order them. Whereat the site declared our cart empty. Three attempts later, we decided it was a fault with our tablet, so hopped over to the laptop where we type this blog. Here a new wrinkle; The algorithm refused to display the item we wanted. Round and round we went, which is how finding these coasters, no name, only keywords, took hours.

We did eventually find and replace them. Call that a satisfying end to this story. And you’d better believe we bought the things in triplicate. Do we need twelve coasters of St Andrews? No. Will the Coaster Eater gobble at least two? Almost certainly. And candidly, we can’t face a repetition of tonight. It doesn’t matter how cute Rocky, er sorry, Docky, is. It’s the next bus to Shelbourne if he tries that again.

After all that, here’s a poem about harbours. Maybe it will sell you on why someone would forgive a Dachshund like Docky his crimes. Since, you know, Rocky is much too cute to commit any.

Harbour Dawn
L.M. Montgomery

There’s a hush and stillness calm and deep,
For the waves have wooed all the winds to sleep
In the shadow of headlands bold and steep;
But some gracious spirit has taken the cup
Of the crystal sky and filled it up
With rosy wine, and in it afar
Has dissolved the pearl of the morning star.

The girdling hills with the night-mist cold
In purple raiment are hooded and stoled
And smit on the brows with fire and gold;
And in the distance the wide, white sea
Is a thing of glamor and wizardry,
With its wild heart lulled to a passing rest,
And the sunrise cradled upon its breast.

With the first red sunlight on mast and spar
A ship is sailing beyond the bar,
Bound to a land that is fair and far;
And those who wait and those who go
Are brave and hopeful, for well they know
Fortune and favor the ship shall win
That crosses the bar when the dawn comes in.

The tea? Oh, right. Let’s tell you about the tea. It’s called Tinsel Today, and we went looking for info on it to tell you what was in it. None came up, so we’re gambling and saying that it’s new this year. We’ve certainly never had it before.

It’s quite a nice herbal tea. There’s a bit of ginger in there to give it life, and what looks like the suggestion of rooibos leaves. There aren’t enough to give it the robustness of a normal rooibos, but it’s still a warm tea for a winter evening. And it comes highly recommended by your favourite Chorister at Home.

For Little Things

It’s one of those chameleon teas today. It is billed as one thing and tastes like another. It’s got a nice, straightforward name; Peanut Butter Cup. Does what it says on the tin, you think? You’d be wrong.

Now, we’re always a bit odd about chocolate teas, so maybe our guard went up to start with. Maybe it went doubly up because tea shouldn’t be the kind of thing that can trigger anaphylaxis.

But for all that, this is a lovely tea. Except for the minor detail that it tastes like neither chocolate nor peanut butter. We’re prepared to say it tastes a bit like roasted chestnuts. There’s a nuttiness in the tea certainly. But from the flavour of it, we think that comes more, bizarre as this sounds, from the use of dark chocolate in the tea. The cocoa brings out subtler notes in the leaves that come across as faintly roasted.

It’s almost like a smoked tea, like Lapsung. But not quite, because it doesn’t get in your nose the same way. Whatever it is, it’s very nice. What it’s not is a peanut butter cup. And that’s absolutely fine. We love a peanut butter cup, we love this tea, and we accept that one of these things is not like the other.

But we got another opportunity to do a bit of tea sampling today, because a friend surprised us with a tea parcel.

We know, it’s Christmas and that’s what friends do. But this friend is way out in Australia and up to her eyes in managing children’s choir recitals and dogs and more choir recitals and Christmas and even more choir stuff and the dog again. And did we mention choirs? So we weren’t expecting a long-distance  ‘thinking of you’ type anything because we’ve been there and done the headless chicken routine, and something has to give.

Not, apparently, our tea. So, we had the delightful chance to sit down with tea named Jane Austen and enjoy that when we finally, finally got to the end of today’s workload.

It was billed as a rose tea, smelled like Turkish delight, and tasted like a rose garden. Okay, it tasted like a rose garden if rose gardens cultivated really high-quality Assam. We’re ear-marking this tea supplier as someone we want to return to and not just because of the literary names.

Now, on this basis, we thought about finding you one of Jane Austen’s poems. She wrote them, and they do exist. They’re sort of hen’s teeth on the internet, though. So, instead, we dug up a poem by the other literary great behind the tea parcel, L.M. Montgomery.   

We almost posted her piece about harbours but that would involve an explanation and we’ve wittered quite enough tonight. We’ll tell you about The Great Harbour Adventure tomorrow. Remind us. Until then, here’s a tribute to unexpected mementos of long-distance friendships.

For The Little Things
L.M. Montgomery

Last night I looked across the hills
And through an arch of darkling pine
Low-swung against a limpid west
I saw a young moon shine.

And as I gazed there blew a wind,
Loosed where the sylvan shadows stir,
Bringing delight to soul and sense
The breath of dying fir.

This morn I saw a dancing host
Of poppies in a garden way,
And straight my heart was mirth-possessed
And I was glad as they.

I heard a song across the sea
As sweet and faint as echoes are,
And glimpsed a poignant happiness
No care of earth might mar.

Dear God, our life is beautiful
In every splendid gift it brings,
But most I thank Thee humbly for
The joy of little things.

As If They Bear Gifts to My People

Sleigh bells ring…Well no, they don’t but tonight’s tea is Sleigh Ride.

This is one of the Advent standards, and we remember it back when it was a new Crumble Tea aspirant. It’s not as good as Crumble Tea. Nothing will ever be as good as Crumble Tea except the original.

But for what it is, this blend of cinnamon, apples, hibiscus and beetroot is a good herbal blend. A bit astringent, a bit sweet, and shockingly pink. Crucially, the pinkness is only surface deep. You drink it and think Robert Frost, not gelatinous confectionary. Thank God.

Though speaking of, we haven’t had a single green tea this Advent. That’s bizarre. There’s always at least one. But with four days to go, we’ve had several blacks, many herbals and two oolongs. It’s a bizarre way to split the calendar – isn’t green tea supposed to be the latest health kick?

Look, we don’t know either. That’s not how or why we drink tea. But we’re sure that was a thing for five minutes at some point in time. So, we’re taking bets; Green teas from here on out or not a one?

All this talking of old but good teas led us to dig up a truly old poem. No, seriously. Think Alliterative Half Metre and the sixth century, or thereabouts. Don’t worry. We took all the declensions out before you got it. Apparently declining Old English isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Just ours.

Wulf and Eadwacer

It’s as if someone should give a gift to my people—
They will kill him if he comes to the troop.
It is otherwise for us.

Wulf is on an island, I on another.
Fast is that island, surrounded by fen.
The men on the island are murderous and cruel;
They will kill him if he comes to the troop.

It is otherwise for us.
I felt far-wandering hopes for my Wulf,
As I sat weeping in the rainy weather,
When the bold warrior’s arms embraced me—
It was sweet to me, yet I also despised it.

Wulf, my Wulf! My wanting you
Has made me sick—your seldom coming,
My mourning heart, not lack of meat.
Do you hear, Eadwacer? A wolf bears away
Our wretched cub to the woods.
One can easily split what was never united,
The song of the two of us.

We quibble with lots of this translation, if you want to know. We can do that because we translated this for a university assignment and came through with astonishingly high marks. We also went on to write a pretty comprehensive essay on the linguistic nuances of just how bizarre this little Old English thing is.

For instance, Wulf may not be anyone’s name. It might be a moniker. Or it might be the kind of thing you call anyone of a certain station, like lieutenant. The wretched cub is almost never a cub – every other version we’ve seen refers to a child. But it’s not a terrible translation choice because we all agree that the play on Wulf/wolf is deliberate.

But the last lines stand out here. Most translations go almost Biblical, and you get renderings like ‘What was never joined together cannot be unjoined.’

Oh, and they quibble over who the ‘He’ of that first bit is, too. Extensively. Volubly. Not always in ways that are terribly interesting.

But that’s quite enough of that. We forgot how much of this we remembered until we started lecturing at you. See you tomorrow under actreo. You don’t know ‘The Wife’s Lament?’ Not to worry, we won’t do that to you again. We’ll come back with something nice and more obviously English. Promise.

THe Camels of Trebizond and Elsewhere

Today’s tea was an absolutely lovely black tea called Brown Sugar Bourbon. We should probably preface this with the caveat that we know nothing about bourbon, so can’t speak to that side of the favour.

But the use of brown sugar was ingenious. Brown Sugar Bourbon isn’t showy like Glitter and Gold. It doesn’t sparkle or anything like that. But it does feature a beautifully dark brown sugar to lightly flavour the tea.

As far as we can tell, there’s nothing else there. Like we say, we’re not experts on Bourbon and won’t pretend to be. But what we could detect was a rich and complex semi-sweet black tea that we would happily buy more of.

In the past, we’ve grumbled about some of the flavoured black teas as being too sweet – typically green tea works better to balance the sweeter flavours like apple or maple out. But because dark muscovado sugar has more in it than undiluted sweetness, this particular combination works.

It’s a lovely way to dress up a breakfast table or a therapeutic way to end the afternoon. In this instance, it was the later. We have had an absolutely unrelenting day. The poor dachshunds still aren’t speaking to us because we took exception to some over-exuberant barking five hours ago. But it was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

The Camel
Wislawa Szymborska with translation by Joanna Trzeciek

Don’t tell a camel about need and want.

Look at the big lips
in perpetual kiss,
the dangerous lashes
of a born coquette.

The camel is an animal
grateful for less.

It keeps to itself
the hidden spring choked with grass,
the sharpest thorn
on the sweetest stalk.

When a voice was heard crying in the wilderness,

when God spoke
from the burning bush,

the camel was the only animal
to answer back.

Dune on stilts,
it leans into the long horizon,

the secret caches of watermelon

brought forth like manna
from the sand.

It will bear no false gods
before it:
not the trader
who cinches its hump
with rope,
nor the tourist.

It has a clear sense of its place in the world:

after water and watermelon,
heat and light,
silence and science,

it is the last great hope.

What’s fascinating about this poem to us is the symbolism it gives the camel. The only other place we’ve seen them used to represent hope and faith is in Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, and we thought that was a one-off. So, our question to you; Is there a whole academic sub-culture of camel symbolism we’ve missed out on? And if so, where is it and how can we read it?

Also, if you haven’t read The Towers of Trebizond, haste ye to a library. We don’t recommend it to just anyone, but it has the best opening sentence of all time, and if you like tea and poetry, it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy Macaulay’s prose.  

In Need of (Tea) and Music

We aren’t wild about herbal teas, and David’s herbals can be particularly hit and miss. Silent Night, tonight’s Advent Tea, is an exception.

The copy on the website for David’s Tea bills this one as full of spice, citrus and refreshing. It turns out it’s right on all counts. It’s a lovely blend of orange with Christmas spices that creates a tea that tastes incredibly seasonal. We give them bonus points for pulling it off without marshmallows, artificial flavour or anything unlawfully saccharine.

The orange gives this tea real zest. You feel it refreshing you as you drink it, which sounds unlikely but isn’t us over-egging anything.

After a weekend spent rushing around like the proverbial headless chicken, this was the perfect way to cap a late Sunday evening.

Okay, part of the running around involved The Messiah, which was lovely and also extremely seasonal. We quibbled with some of the alto ornaments in ‘O Thou That Tellest’ but recognize that since alto isn’t our line we can’t really do anything about that. They were perfectly good ornaments, by the way. They were just very out of left field.

Ditto some of the decorations in ‘I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.’ This one we get to have opinions on for the twofold reason that we sing soprano and specifically, can sing this aria. What we hadn’t appreciated until this afternoon was that we apparently had a set of standard ornaments so deeply embedded in our musical psyche we expected everyone to use them. Ah well.

Here’s a poem in keeping with the musical theme of the day. We think it’s as refreshing as Silent Night tea, but will let you have the last word.

I Am In Need of Music
Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colours deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

I Had A Dove

We had Chai S’Mores tonight. This is a chai base with marshmallow and several other sweet things woven in.

It’s another good example of how to brew a sweet teat that won’t choke anyone on the all-consuming taste of jam. The spice inherent in chai keeps it from cloying. But the presence of marshmallow adds a touch of extra sweetness.

It’s one of those teas that might work well with milk. We didn’t try it that way because it was an exceptionally long evening, and candidly we didn’t have the energy to experiment with tea.

We poured this out after a whack of guests left and the tidy-up was done. It was the first spare moment we got all day.

Not quite true. There was a half-hour earlier where we were reading Less Than Angels. Somewhere in there, Deirdre Swan reads a poem by Christina Rosetti. Our cunning plan was to crib the poem from Pym for you. Can we remember it? Can we never. And can we be bothered sifting through the last 30 pages of Less Than Angles? Ask us again tomorrow, yeah?

Until then, enjoy Keats. He also crops up in Pym, as the pet subject of an American Academic named Ned.

The Sweet Dove Died
John Keats

I had a dove and the sweet dove died;
And I have thought it died of grieving.
O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied,
With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving;

Sweet little red feet! why should you die –
Why should you leave me, sweet bird! why?
You lived alone in the forest-tree,
Why, pretty thing, could you not live with me?
I kissed you oft and gave you white peas;
Why not live sweetly, as in the green trees?

There’s a whole essay to be had on the aptness of this epigram for the Pym novel of the same title. But not tonight. It’s late and the weekend isn’t nearly over. But watch this space. We have plans re Pym.

We Still Haven’t Forgiven The Jam Tea

Today’s tea, Pommegrateful, is one of David’s many Pink Teas. These are teas that pour out pink and taste alarmingly pink.

Usually when this happens there’s hibiscus in the tea somewhere. There’s definitely hibiscus in this tea. But there’s also the eponymous pomegranate.

The result is an incredibly sweet tea that probably makes a much better iced tea than it does a hot one. Every year we get this one out of the calendar we observe that we’d like to try it that way. Just not in -8 weather conditions.

We got distracted with other writing tonight, so that gave this a time not only to steep but to cool. And while it’s not cold, we can confirm it’s a much better tepid tea than a hot one. Some fruit teas shouldn’t be hot, and this is one of those.

It’s also an interesting exercise in how to make a sweet tea that isn’t hideous. We know, we know, we’re still going on about jam-tea from two days ago. But it was appalling. Pomegrateful isn’t.

It walks the tightrope between overly-sweet and cloying, and pleasantly tart. Just as you think it’s tiptoed over the line, the hibiscus under the surface cuts through the pomegranate and sugar of it all.

And no, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to run with these dreadful puns for names. But you know, it doesn’t taste like jam. And we’re going to keep coming back to that until kingdom come, because truly that was dire.

Tonight’s poem is a gift from another writer-friend. Remember we said we got distracted with other writing? Some of that was for her.

There’s some greyness to the poem, but then, that’s Advent too. And you’ve got to remember, we are chronically allergic to anything too sweet.

Desolation is a Delicate Thing
Elinor Wylie

Sorrow lay upon my breast more heavily than winter clay
Lying ponderable upon the unmoving bosom of the dead;
Yet it was dissolved like a thin snowfall; it was softly withered away;
Presently like a single drop of dew it had trembled and fled.

This sorrow, which seemed heavier than a shovelful of loam,
Was gone like water, like a web of delicate frost;
It was silent and vanishing like smoke; it was scattered like foam;
Though my mind should desire to preserve it, nevertheless it is lost.

This sorrow was not like sorrow; it was shining and brief;

Even as I waked and was aware of its going, it was past and gone;
It was not earth; it was no more than a light leaf,
Or a snowflake in spring, which perishes upon stone.

This sorrow was small and vulnerable and short-lived;
It was neither earth nor stone; it was silver snow
Fallen from heaven, perhaps; it has not survived
An hour of the sun; it is sad it should be so.

This sorrow, which I believed a gravestone over my heart,
Is gone like a cloud; it eluded me as I woke;
Its crystal dust is suddenly broken and blown apart;
It was not my heart; it was this poor sorrow alone which broke.

In Which We Discuss Nice Normal Things Like Golden Geese

The discontented grumblings of a blogger will out, apparently, because after all that stuff the other night about overly sweet faux jam we got Christmas Morning Tea this morning.

Christmas Morning Tea is a nice, sane, no-nonsense black tea with vanilla flavour. We couldn’t for the life of us tell you how this is Christmassy, but candidly, we don’t care. It doesn’t taste like jam. Huzzah! Would it be more Christmassy with cloves in? Of course it would.

Do we care? Not a jot.

We can drink it without awful gagging noises, no tea was poured down the sink in vexation, it’s a banner day for the Chorister at Home and the menagerie.

Doubly so, because we have discovered Muriel Spark wrote poetry. We like to think we’re if not Muriel Spark experts than decently cogent on the subject of her writing. We can even name some of her plays and tell you how The Girls of Slender Means opens.

(We can tell you the last sentence of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, too, but so can anyone who claims to like Spark, so that’s no great thing.)

We did not know she wrote poetry.

So, obviously, what with writing about nothing but tea and poetry all Advent we set out to find some of her poems. It took some digging. Turns out Muriel Spark’s poetry is rivalling Tenessee Williams for Best Kept Poetic Secret of the Century. The thing of it is, we’d all know it a heck of a lot better if they’d both never written a novel or a play worth talking about.

With that in mind, here’s a quintissencially Muriel Spark poem by the woman who wrote the most horrifyingly gothic tea scene ever. You can find it in Memento Mori, if you are wondering. You’ll never look at a Victorian tea service the same way again. But before you set off to do that, here’s that poem.

The Goose
Muriel Spark

Do you want to know why I am alive today?
I will tell you.
Early on, during the food-shortage,
Some of us were miraculously presented
Each with a goose that laid a golden egg.
Myself, I killed the cackling thing and I ate it.
Alas, many and many of the other recipients
Died of gold-dust poisoning.

You’re laughing, aren’t you? Even while experiencing visceral horror. That’s Spark’s signature. Darkly, comedically brilliant.