christmas 1914

christmas 1914
to the memory of my maternal grandfather William ‘Pop’ Rumble & his comrades on both sides

that first christmas
the big little one
in the stable
under a star bright
as a streetlamp
the event of
human events
lavished on ceilings,
in song and gilded books
for hundreds of years
ever since
the lustre hard
to see under
so much varnish
the christmas that
drags it all back
into the heart’s
eye for me
is that christmas 1914
and the ‘great’
the ‘wise’ powers
of the time were smashing
each other’s young men
to blood and bone
to rest in mud
across miles of
northern france
fields that clothed
the autumn in
a wonder of
tumbling leaf
in light were churned
to graveyards in
a morning
those men
at the front line,
christmas day.
saw across the earth
the slaughter passage
‘no-man’s land’
they were to make
through at a
general’s word
saw men on that
other side who too
had known christmas
of hearth, of warm
and good things
that anyone could
bring to another
who knew too
the beauty of a
a cigarette breathed
out into the chill
while your blood warmed,
they knew this of their
enemy and so came
out of the trenches
in which they lived, fell,
were buried alive in,
came out and hailed
each other across the
blasted bitter ground
they trudged across,
and caught off-guard
in smiling embraced
with slaps on the
arm, on shoulders
scrabbled for words
across each language
a handful enough
to show it was
christmas and for
our sake if
not for Christ’s
the killing should
stop and it did stop
as the falling snow
reminded each of
every tender hand that
ever had touched them
in a season of hope
as they drank
from the tin cups
and sang like
the angel had
in truth
in a glowing
fog upon them
the killing stopped
for those hours
those days for
many* who later
fell who later
killed each
other sooner
or later
after the
carols and
the football
had ended and
no-man’s land
again was only
for the dead

november 28, 2014

*not all soldiers took part in this undeclared Christmas ‘truce’ of 1914

Copyright © 2020 Peter Le Baige. All Rights Reserved

The music accompanying the reading is a rendition of the German carol ‘Stille Nacht’ (Silent Night) by the Dresdner Kreuzchor, apparently one of the world’s oldest (800 years) and most famous boys’ choirs.

2 thoughts on “christmas 1914”

  1. Peter, what a beautiful, sad story of what happened during a long ago war. One of your best readings which really touched me and I will play this at Chrismas with the family in a couple of days. Hope your holiday is wonderful and your year to come safe.


    1. Same to you, Sis. I’m glad you liked the reading! I shared it on your timeline on Facebook, as it looked like you tried to share it to judge from your comment on Facebook under my original post.


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