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The Kerry Christmas Carol -- Sigerson Clifford

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
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

21 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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Tim Buckley said...

I am in Antarctica - a long time fan of Sigerson Clifford poetry,
particularly his "Tinker" poems
I would dearly love to get the words to some of them and the Boys of Barr
na Sraidhe
I obviously do not have access to shops/mail down here.
Can you please help


Tim Buckley (originally from Ireland)

Kath2949 said...

Not sure how long this poem has been posted but I find it beautiful

geordy austin said...

Tim Buckely return my test email.Slan said...

This poem is well-written and it has the capacity to move every persons who will read it.

Just continue writing and we'll support you every step of the way.

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Anonymous said...

I do not know Sigerson Clifford is, but he is NOT the writer of this piece of work. It was written by Celia Thaxter from a collection entitled Celia Thaxter in her Garden. She lived in New Hampshire from 1835-1894, writing this poem in 1892. A full decade BEFORE Clifford was born.

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