Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seasonal Thoughts

Thoughts on Christmas from four favourite writers of the past:

To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
~ E.B. White
"The Distant Music of the Hounds," (1954).

Poem by Ogden Nash for the Children's Aid Society of Maryland (1942). Ogden Nash was a former President and long time board member of the Children's Aid Society.
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat.
But how about the children, have you taken thought of that?
What about the little boy that lives down the lane,
Ragged in the snowstorm, whistling in the rain?
What about the little girl the other side of town?
There's no one she can run to, and her world is falling down.
Dead father, drunken father, father gone away,
Sick mother, no mother, think of them today.
These are the lost ones, little ones alone.
These too are Maryland, these are our own.
Christmas is coming, and shall they be dismayed?
Send a Merry Christmas check to the Children's Aid.

Poem by the brilliant, and usually acerbic, Dorothy Parker, here in gentler mood:

The Maid-Servant At The Inn

"It's queer," she said; "I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright-
We've not had stars like that again!

"And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening-
This new one's better than the old.

"I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

"I never saw a sweeter child-
The little one, the darling one!-
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You'd know he was his mother's son.

"It's queer that I should see them so-
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I've prayed that all is well with them."

From a classic that never gets old:
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

~ Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales

Finally, words about the author of, among other novels, Les Misérables:
Like all the other newspapers, we have previously reported that once a week M. Victor Hugo gives a large number of poor children an excellent dinner.This great apostle of humanity has just added to his good works. Not content with just feeding the body, he decided that it should be clothed, too, and that these unfortunate children have just as much right to the joys of childhood as their richer counterparts. Thus he has just given out to his thirty-two protégés the clothes they needed, and gave them the pleasure of a Christmas tree, decorated with presents suitable for their age. This family get-together took place on Wednesday [Christmas Eve] and was attended by several volunteers. Before handing out the clothes and toys, the poet gave the children a little speech couched in terms they could understand. He told them that it is every man’s duty to give their less well-off brothers some of what they have; that he was happy to do what he was doing for them; but that they should understand that they did not owe him anything, but should be grateful to the Father of all, and if they wanted to thank anyone it should not be him, but God, who makes all things well. He then spoke to them about the enormous importance of work, which is for everyone, depending upon their vocation and abilities. He said that work was the only means of making people happy, virtuous, and good.
'My dear children, amongst the toys I have just given you, you will find no guns, no cannon or swords, no murderous weapon that would make you think of war or destruction. War is a dreadful thing; the people of the world are made for loving one another, not killing each other. The girls will find dolls to play with, ideal for learning how to be mother, which will be their job later in life. For the boys there are little boats and little trains, in other words toys designed to encourage work, progress and the mind, and not destruction.'
The toys were then handed out to the children. It was lovely to see the joy on everyone’s faces, and it would be difficult to say who was happier, those who gave the presents, or those who received them.
[From the French.] LINK


mike said...

It's very sad that Xmas here in the USA is ruled by capitalism...all about sales, as far as retailers are concerned. And, of course, we consumers are the other side of the equation, too...can't have one without the other. There are too many reasons a child may not receive gifts at Xmas, whether from friends, family, or Santa. The commercials on TV and in-store displays must be extremely confusing to the no-Xmas-gifts-child...or even the child that receives minimal.

Many nationalities and cultures around the world celebrate Xmas in a very different manner than the USA. I appreciate Mexico's tradition of visiting family, friends, music and drink, spiritually inclined, food, and glad tidings...a down-play of capitalism-consumerism. At least, that's what my Latino friends convey to me, when they reminisce about their Xmases south of the border.

I'm particularly annoyed this year with a series of Ford commercials...a child sitting on Santa's lap requesting a truck or car...the child is very flip, aggressive, and creepy. Ugh...and not "cute"...and I'm sure there are creepy kids just like that out there...I've met a few and the parents that produce the darlings.

Twilight said...

mike ~ The UK isn't far behind in capitalism and consumerism at Christmas - just on a smaller scale, but the atmosphere is much the same in stores and TV ads, if I recall correctly....Some of it apes the USA some is home grown.

I haven't seen the Ford commercials you mentioned. I did see a similarly annoying one the other night which had me swearing loudly at the TV - can't remember the detail now, I think it involved smartphones.

I've just read a piece by Robert Reich highlighting the way charity by the wealthy classes nowadays does little for the needy. When philanthropy met entropy?

Rich people’s idea of charity: Giving to elite schools and operas

mike (again) said...

I've read several articles about the wealthy contributions that ultimately butter wealth's bread. Or the charities that utilize the majority of contributions for "administrative" costs. Uh huh. There is also a trend for companies to become non-profit by reorganizing the profitable portions as subcontractors...particularly in hospitals and health care. Deviousness abounds, Twilight.

Here's an interesting link (and comments!)...philanthropists now have a lobbyist at their disposal: The Charity Defense Council. Don't expect reform anytime soon.

Clotee said...

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!
Bring you Good wishes of happiness.

Sorry for greeting you earlier,, just don't want miss saying this.
By the way, I'm clotee. It's my first time visiting your blog. I am blogger

too, and now try my best luck to open an e-store. Nice to know you.


David Macadam said...

Lovely post. Almost restores my faith in humanity!

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for the link. Making "charity" and "philanthropy" into profitable "big business" eh? I guess it was inevitable. :-/

I've sadly read adverse articles and comment about Goodwill and the Salvation Army recently (the former due to high salary of CEO; the latter because of their alleged stance against LGBT - though this is disputed in some places). I bear these things in mind, but find them secondary to the fact that both organisations do good, and can be seen to be doing good at the "business" end.

Twilight said...

Clotee ~ Thanks and good wishes to you too. I realise your post is primarily an exercise in advertising, aka spam, but as it is the season of goodwill - I'll not treat it as "spam". :-)

Twilight said...

David Macadam ~ Thanks. :-) I was trying to do that for my self too! Almost.........