The Shortest Day
A Poem Written for Revels in 1977 by
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, revelling.
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, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now - this year and every year.
For eight days, between December 18 and December 24, the Length of Day (here in Massachusetts) is nine hours and four minutes. On December 17, and again on Christmas Day, the Length of Day is nine hours and five minutes. Tomorrow the Day will be 27 seconds longer than today! The Light creeps silently along the land.
This week between Christmas and the New Year, amidst the search for bargains, and the integrating of new Christmas gifts into the familiar things in drawers and on shelves, and the last reading and then discarding of the Christmas greetings, and the eating of the remains of holiday treats, and cleaning up the guest room and doing extra loads of laundry, there is a peculiar quiet. Streets are quieter. News is less strident. It is too late to do the things you had resolved to do, in 2013—but you will have a chance to start again pretty soon. Except not just yet. Hold your breath now, or breathe quietly, and listen. Listen! Hear the Light coming!