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Winter Solstice Poetry and Celtic mid-Winter Poetry

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Winter Solstice Poetry and Celtic mid-Winter poetry for your Winter Solstice Celebrations and enjoyment.

Play Accompanying Music

click above to hear "Spereed Holvedal" (Spirits of the World) availalbe here on MP3 (track 5) (Winter Solstice Music 1 "Favorites") or on the CD/DVD "Winter, A Meditation"

Is there a moment quite as keen
Or memory as bright
As light and fire and music (sweet)
To warm the winter's night?

A Leaf From The Tree of Songs

By Adam Christianson

When harpers once in wooden hall
A shining chord would strike
Their songs like arrows pierced the soul
Of great and low alike

Aglow by hearth and candleflame
From burning branch ot ember
The mist of all their music sang
As if to ask in wonder

Is there a moment quite as keen
Or memory as bright
As light and fire and music sweet
To warm the winter's night?

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Lord of the Dance

Traditional

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun;
I was called from the darkness by the song of the earth,
I joined in the singing and she gave me birth.

(chorus, repeat after each verse)

Dance, then, wherever you may be!
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you on, wherever you may be, I will lead you all in the Dance, said he!


I sleep in the kernel and I dance in the rain,
I dance in the wind, and through the waving grain,
And when you cut me down, I care nothing for the pain --
In Spring I'll be Lord of the Dance again!

I see the maidens laughing as they dance in the sun,
I count the fruits of the of the harvest, one by one;
I know the storm is coming, but the grain is all stored,
So I sing of the dance of the Lady and the Lord.

We dance ever slower as the leaves fall and spin
And the sound of the Horn is the wailing of the wind;
The Earth is wrapped in stillness and we move in a trance,
but we hold on fast to our faith in the dance.

The sun is in the south and the days lengthen fast,
And soon we'll sing for the winter that is past,
Now we light the candles and rejoice as they burn,
and Dance the dance of the sun's return.

They cut me down, but I leap up high!
I am life that will never, never die.
I'll live in you and you'll live in me --
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he!

The moon in her phases and the tides of the sea,
the movement of Earth, and the seasons that will be
Are rhythm for the dancing and a promise through the years --
The Dance goes on through joy and tears.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

I have news for you

(9th century Irish)

I have news for you:
The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
cold has seized the birds' wings;
season of ice, this is my news

The Olde Year Now Away is Fled

(sung to Greensleeves) 13th Century English
Translation By Lawrence Rosenwald

The olde year now away is fled,
The new year it is entered
Then let us now our sins downtread
And joyfully all appear
Let's be merry this holiday
And let us run with sport and play
Han sorrow, let's cast care away -
God send you a happy new year

Come, give us more liquor when I do call
I'll drink to each one in this hall
I hope that so loud I must not bawl
But unto me lend me an ear
Good fortune to my master send
And to my dame which is our friend
God bless us all, and so I end
And God send us a happy new year

The Wren Song

The Wren, the Wren the king of all birds,
St. Stephenses day, he was caught in the furze.
Although he is little, his honor is great,
Rise up, kind sir, and give us a trate.
We followed this Wren ten miles or more
Through hedges and ditches and heaps of snow,
We up with our wattles and gave him a fall
And brought him here to show you all.
For we are the boys that came your way
To bury the Wren on Saint Stephenses Day,
So up with the kettle and down with the pan!
Give us some help for to bury the Wren!

Winter by Tommy Makem

WINTER, a sharp bitter day
the robin turns plump against the cold
the sun is week
silver faded from gold
he is late in his coming and short in his stay
Man, beast, bird and air all purging, all cleansing,
earth already purified awaits the rite of spring
Her bridal gown a virgin snow and frosts in her hair
A snowdrop by the road today bowed gracefully
and high upon the wing up in the sparkling nothingness,
a lone bird began to sing
Can gentle spring be far away?

Reflections On a Scottish Christmas by Johnny Cunningham

The dark of winter wraps around us tight.
The lamps are fired, and flickering light
beats time to the fiddle as notes float softly down, like the years' first snow.
While outside the window a blast of late December wind
whistles harmony to the drone of the pipes.
We push the old year back against the wall
so we can dance a jig for Christmas and welcome in the new

A Childhood Christmas

by Patrick Kavanagh (1905 - 1967)

I

One side of the potato-pits was white with frost-
How wonderful that was, how wonderful
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven's gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw-
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me
To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhoods. Again
The tracks of Cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
Or any common sight the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

II

My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.


Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.


A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.


Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon-the Three Wise Kings.
An old man passing said:
'Can't he make it talk' -
The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife's big blade-

There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary's blouse.

AN OLD MAN'S WINTER NIGHT by Robert Frost

All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him -- at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off; -- and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
So late-arising, to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man -- one man -- can't keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night.

In the Green Wood from Mother Goose

(making the fire)

Oak-logs will warm you well,
That are old and dry;
Logs of pine will sweetly smell
But the sparks will fly.
Birch-logs will burn too fast,
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn-logs are good to last -
Catch them in the fall.
Holly-logs will burn like wax,
You may burn them green;
Elm-logs like to smoldering flax,
No flame to be seen.
Beech-logs for winter time,
Yew-logs as well;
Green elder-logs it is a crime
For any man to sell.
Pear-logs and apple-logs,
They will scent your room,
Cherry-logs across the dogs
Smell like flower of the broom.
Ash-logs, smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way -
Worth their weight in gold.

New Year from Mother Goose

Wassail, wassail, to our town,
The cup is white, the ale is brown:
The cup is made of the ashen tree,
And so is the ale of the good barley.

Little maid, pretty maid, turn the pin,
Open the door and let us come in:
God be here, God be there,
I wish you all a Happy New Year.

To Drive the Cold Winter Away

This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbors together do meet
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet;
Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay;
The old and the young doth carol this song
To drive the cold winter away.

Sisley and Nanny, more jocund than any,
As blithe as the month of June,
Do carol and sing like birds of the spring,No nightingale sweeter in tune;
To bring in content, when summer is spent,
In pleasant delight and play,
With mirth and good cheer to end the whole year,
And drive the cold winter away.The shepherd, the swain, do highly disdain
To waste out their time in care;
And Clim of the Clough hath plenty enough
If he but a penny can spare
To spend at the night, in joy and delight,
Now after his labor all day;
For better than lands is the help of his hands
To drive the cold winter away.

To mask and to mum kind neighbors will come
With wassails of nut-brown ale,
To drink and carouse to all in the house
As merry as bucks in the dale;
Where cake, bread, and cheese are brought for your fees
To make you the longer stay;
At the fire to warm 'twill do you no harm,To drive the cold winter away.

When Christmas's tide comes in like a bride
With holly and ivy clad,
Twelve days in the year much mirth and good cheer
In every household is had;
The country guise is then to devise
Some gambols of Christmas play,
Whereat the young men do best that they can
To drive the cold winter away.

When white-bearded frost hath threatened his worst,
And fallen from branch and brier,
Then time away calls from husbandry halls
And from the good countryman's fire,
Together to go to plough and to sow,
To get us both food and array,
And thus with content the time we have spent
To drive the cold winter away.

This Is Now The Winter Time

Words: Goodwyn Barmby
Source: Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851).


This is now the winter time,
My merry gentlemen
Yule logs are burning in your hall,
Fair forms are circling in the ball,
And cups are filled with purple wine
To aid the pudding and the chine.

This is now the winter time;
Remember, gentles, then,
That none shall starve while you dine;
That none shall thirst who grow the vine.
Yet give no alms in mean award,
But spread the just, the well-earned board.
This is now the winter time,
My noble gentlemen.