And the heart of the Earth a star

Merry Christmas to all my readers who, by virtue of my utter strangeness, are also wonderfully strange (otherwise you’d just shake your head and move on). I love you! ^_^

A Child of the Snows

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

-by G. K. Chesterton

And here is my reading of it.


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

18 responses to “And the heart of the Earth a star

  • robstroud

    Very nice. And what a fine addition, offering your own reading here.

    Merry Christ mass.

  • Deborah Makarios

    Nice! I don’t know why, but I was imagining your voice less deep, and more, er, British.
    And yes, we’re all strange here…

  • Brenton Dickieson

    Thank for making me slow down enough to read/listen to this. Were all the gods of history at the manger scene, laying down their staffs and hammers and lightning bolts?

    • jubilare

      ^_^ May you get to slow down more over the next few days. That’s something I think we tend to do wrong around Christmas. There’s something to be said for taking 12 days to celebrate it.

      I recently read Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.” There is a lot of it that makes me cringe, but a lot that makes me think, too. Chesterton holds that the gods, at least of the Classical world, had already effectively “died” before the coming of Christ, or were at least nearly dead, in the hearts of the people.
      But I love Lewis’s view that what was true and best in the ancient religions and mythologies were echoes of Him, and in that sense, all that was good in the old gods is made manifest in Christ.

      • Brenton Dickieson

        Here’s to 12 hours of slow down! I am truly overwhelmed, so I will take this blessing you offer.
        I tend to visit the myths of the past with more imagination than some, so I find the whole thing evocative.

        • jubilare

          Same here. May God grant us both peaceful hearts despite circumstances. ^_^

          Me too. Chesterton makes some good points about that, too, saying that those who only analyze and explicate myths don’t understand them. Only those who are moved by them know what myths are.

          • Brenton Dickieson

            I’ve been thinking about our conversation here. I hung on the “Christmas is a time to tell the truth” moment and sort of ignored the context, I see. While watching the movie, the unrequited love dork bothered me–I felt it was selfish for him to “need to do this.” I think there are times not to tell the truth. And I don’t know that we have to tell every truth all the time. Perhaps that’s part of the culture war problem: knowing when to speak, and when to, well, do anything other than speak.

          • jubilare

            Aye, perhaps. And I confess that sometimes it is darn hard to know when to speak truth and when to stay silent. I’ve seen the truth used as a weapon to hurt people, I’ve seen it used badly (heck, I’ve used it badly) and yet I’ve also seen silence do horrible, horrible things. I guess the best we can do is to pray for wisdom on when to speak and when not to.

  • stephencwinter

    Analysis really is the death of all delight. For all his faults Chesterton was a man of delight and I love him for that even if as a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism he would have some some hard words for an Anglican like me whose heart remains hardened to that particular journey. That was a wonderful poem to share.
    I wrote an essay once on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s easy, On Telling the Truth. It had quite an impact on me then and it does now. As a member of the resistance to the Nazi regime he knew a lot about hiding the truth. His argument boils down to this. If I am hiding a Jew from the authorities and tell them that there is no one in the house then in defending him from harm I am telling the truth. The truth does not do harm to another. If I knowingly do harm while telling the truth then that “truth” is of the devil. Thus it is no truth at all.

    • jubilare

      “Analysis really is the death of all delight.” Ach! I cannot agree. The wrong kind of analysis is the death of delight, but the right kind is a source of it. Perhaps it is the Smeagol in me speaking, but I love digging for roots and beginnings. I love a rock or tree all the more when I am able to science out how it came to be as it is. I love the details. I value the process. I love the “aha!” when I figure out some subtlety woven into a text or a poem by the author. I adore historical context that shows me what the world of a writer or an artist was like and how it affected their work. All this makes the thing itself that much richer.

      The kind of analysis that kills delight is that which seeks to discount or cheapen the thing being analyzed, and it comes from the kind of mind that thinks less of a thing once it is understood. Even analyzing myths can serve a purpose, but the problem comes when one either thinks myths are “just stories,” or else one forgets that they’re meant to strike one as something intuitive and evocative. Experiencing a myth, and analyzing a myth, are two very different things, and if one is going to analyze without eviscerating a myth, one has to keep returning, I think, to the experiential, non-analytical side of it as a reminder. At least, that’s my take. ;)

      Hmm… that statement on truth is an interesting one. I think I will need to read the essay to wrap my head around it.

      By the way, I am sorry for being so quiet! I am working my tail off in preparation for quitting my 2nd job. In another week, Lord willing, I will have more time. ^_^

      • stephencwinter

        I fear I may have been rather lazy in that statement and you are right to correct me. The kind of analysis that I hate is the kind that reduces something beautiful to something smaller than the thing itself. I have Casaubon in George Elliot’s Middlemarch in mind who spends endless hours on a footnote and so misses the beauty of what he studies. It is like the scholar who is so anxious to prove a theory about a painting that he forgets that the painting once moved him. What I realised that you describe was the enhancement of an experience by understanding it better. Of course you are right. I began my reflections on The Lord of the Rings determined not to do a scholarly work but I have not been able to avoid reading other scholars. Of course I want to understand the work better.
        On Bonhoeffer, I once met a pastor from the former communist East Germany who had refused to make any compromise with the regime on any level. He was a deeply impressive man. I had been giving a paper on Bonhoeffer and had spoken on his joining German military intelligence in order to plot against the Nazi regime from within with other insiders. The pastor was almost angry with me. It spoke too much of compromise and, of course, Bonhoeffer and other resistance members were constantly seeking to deceive the Gestapo. The essay on Telling the Truth was just one of Bonhoeffer’s efforts to struggle with what he was a part of.
        Finally, you will be in my prayers as you leave your job and I look forward to hearing from you whenever you are able to write again.

        • jubilare

          With my sheep-dog instincts, you can always trust me to nip at unqualified blanket statements. It’s a fault in my nature, I think, as it tends to annoy people. You’re kind for taking it so well. ;)
          Those of us who analyze do have to be careful not to lose the forest when we study the leaf. It’s a real danger. But I think there’s also a danger in never going deeper than the surface because we never find more things to be in awe of. ^_^

          The internal conflict of Bonhoeffer fascinates me, and I feel ashamed that I haven’t read any of his works yet. I hope, however, that quitting job no. 2 will allow for exactly that. Time for reading, writing, friends, exercise and health, and rest… all things that have been hard to come by for a while. Finances will be tight, but Lord willing, sustainable.
          I appreciate your prayers more than I can say. I hope all is well with you and your family.

          • stephencwinter

            I really don’t think of it as a fault. I try to make a distinction between comments that simply aim to undermine and those that challenge me to think better. On that basis can I offer a further thought on analysis?
            Surely there is analysis or criticism that is detached and disengaged and then there is analysis that enters the very creative process from which the original work came and which honours its intention. George Steiner, the great cultural philosopher, argued that the purest form of criticism is performance. He was thinking of music there but could this principle apply to the way we read as well. Discovering Bonhoeffer in the school library where I taught when I was 25 changed my life and it still does. Surely that too is a form of criticism?
            Thank you for your best wishes for my family. I could talk about them at great length! God bless you in all you do today ☺

          • jubilare

            I am glad. But then you are both a nice person and someone who values self-reflection. That makes a sheepd-dog like me less irritating.

            Performance as criticism, eh? What an intriguing thought. I suppose what I choose to read through, re-read, put down, or pass over is also a form of active criticism.
            Lewis speaks of “seeing along” and “seeing through” experience as two separate methods, neither of which is inherently of more worth than the other. Each serve a purpose, but for some reason modern thought has favored seeing through, and used “seeing through” something as a means of debunking “seeing along” it, as if the first was superior instead of simply different.
            And then, of course, we have JRRT’s two-cent’s worth: “He sees no stars who does not see them first of living silver made that sudden burst to flame like flowers beneath the ancient song, whose very echo after-music long has since pursued.”

            Amen and you as well. ^_^

          • stephencwinter

            I will end up by speaking of life as performance art as David Bowie did! And perhaps it is but not as a purely human construct. Performance as shared with the Holy Spirit in intimate fellowship?

          • jubilare

            I dread, a bit, to see my part in it one day. All I know is that the part the Holy Spirit has in it is the only part that won’t make me groan. ;)

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