Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shepherds' Carol by Norman Nicholson

Three practical farmers from back of the dale -
Under the high sky -

On a Saturday night said 'So long' to their sheep

That were bottom of dyke and fast asleep -

When the stars came out in the Christmas sky.

They called at the pub for a gill of ale -

Under the high sky -

And they found in the stable, stacked with the corn,

The latest arrival, newly-born -

When the stars came out in the Christmas sky.

They forgot their drink, they rubbed their eyes -

Under the high sky -

They were tough as leather and ripe as a cheese

But they dropped like a ten-year-old down on their knees

When the stars came out in the Christmas sky.

They ran out in the yard to swap their news -

Under the high sky -

They pulled off their caps and roused a cheer
To greet a spring lamb before New Year -

When the stars came out in the Christmas sky

The work of Norman Nicholson (1914 -- 1987) has, like so many good things, gone out of fashion. And this moving poem, Shepherd's Carol, is an example of what we, most unfortunately, have lost. The poem reflects Nicholson's abiding concern for working men and for Christianity, concerns which colored most of his novels, plays and poetry.

If you'd like to know more about Norman Nicholson but can't afford the prices his very rare books now fetch, you might try these sites: 1; 2; and 3.

[Note: the stained glass shown at left is a recent addition to St George's Church in Millom. It is dedicated to the memory of Norman Nicholson there in the place where he worshipped. Christine Boyce designed the window using imagery based on Nicholson's poems and prose.]