Christmas Day guest poem sent in by "Frank O'Shea"
(Poem #970) The Kerry Christmas Carol
Brush the floor and clean the hearth, And set the fire to keep, For they might visit us tonight When all the world's asleep. Don't blow the tall white candle out But leave it burning bright, So that they'll know they're welcome here This holy Christmas night. Leave out the bread and meat for them, And sweet milk for the Child, And they will bless the fire, that baked And, too, the hands that toiled. For Joseph will be travel-tired, And Mary pale and wan, And they can sleep a little while Before they journey on. They will be weary of the roads, And rest will comfort them, For it must be many a lonely mile From here to Bethlehem. O long the road they have to go, The bad mile with the good, Till the journey ends on Calvary Beneath a cross of wood. Leave the door upon the latch, And set the fire to keep, And pray they'll rest with us tonight When all the world's asleep.
Sigerson Clifford (1913 - 1984) Grew up in Cahirciveen on the Ring of Kerry and attended the Christian Brothers school in that town. Worked most of his life in Dublin, the first generation of Irish civil servants after independence. He wrote a number of plays, some of which were produced in the Abbey Theatre and was also prominent in the early days of Irish radio. His verse is a mixture of the wistful and the gay, recreating a time of childhood innocence and celebrating his native Kerry. He writes often about the tinkers, the travelling people who in his young days were an accepted and usually welcomed feature of rural life. Now it has become politically correct to call them travellers and people fight to keep them out of their neighbourhood. His book of verse Ballads of a Bogman from which today's poem is taken, was first released in 1955 and has been in print since. The poem is an evocation of an old Irish custom in which each household would leave a lighted candle in their window on Christmas night. There was a pious belief that Joseph and Mary and the Child still wandered the roads of the world, looking for a place to rest from the persecution of Herod. That they should show a preference for the roads of rural Ireland was accepted as a given. Frank O'Shea