Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 5: Stained Glass

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Christmas: John Betjeman.  From John Betjeman's 'Collected Poems', published by John Murray.

With thanks to Pexels for the images (All images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license).  The Dorchester Hotel image from Moments Blog: Dorchester Hotel.

The poem 'Christmas' by John Betjeman performed by Lance Pierson

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.  
More from my Advent Calendar tomorrow.


  1. That is a lovely poem. I heard it once long ago, when the BBC did programme with John Betjeman.

    Julie xxxxxx

    1. Hi Julie, I must admit I hadn’t heard it before, but it’s now my new favourite poem.

  2. I have just discovered your blog, not sure why I hadn't seen it before as anything with BOOK in the title ans I'm there like a shot!
    The JB poem is one of my favourites I think he is looked down on a bit because his poems rhyme!
    Lovely photos in your Christmas posts - thank you for sharing

    1. Hello Sue, Thanks so much for calling in. There are so many book blogs online now it’s difficult if not impossible to find/visit them all.
      I didn’t know the poem prior to writing this post, but I love it now and in my humble opinion, poetry should rhyme! I can’t be doing with all this newfangled stuff. :)

  3. Lovely thing, and glorious images to go with it. Thank you.

  4. When John Betjeman’s Collected Poems came out in 1958 they made publishing history and have since sold over two and a quarter million copies.
    But Betjeman was not only a poet. Through his broadcasting and journalism he opened people’s eyes to the value of the buildings and landscape around them and became Britain’s grand champion of its heritage.
    2006 was his Centenary, and we continue to celebrate his legacy to us.
    He also described himself in Who's Who as a poet and hack...!

    Well...l'm always honest and tell it like it is...But! He did
    nothing for me, l found him all over the place with his poetry,
    a lot of it did'nt make sense...though l've the IQ of a Rocking
    Horse..HeHe! :).
    Give me a good old fashioned nursery rhythm any day...!

    Hookers Green...Who or what is Hookers Green...and what goes on
    I Google it....
    "Hooker's green is a dark green color created by mixing Prussian blue and Gamboge. Hooker's green takes its name from botanical artist William Hooker (1779–1832) who first created a special pigment for leaves".
    ~~~So there you are..Weird~~~

    Oh! I do like stained glass though...Lovely..! :0).

    1. Hi Willie, I’m surprised this poem does nothing for you, I love it although the Hookers Green reference is a bit of a mystery. I assumed it was somewhere in London but was unable to find such a place.

      Like you, I found the reference to William Hooker or rather to two of them;
      William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) born in Norwich, the botanist who went on to be the first director of RBG, Kew, and was the father of Joseph Dalton Hooker, and William Hooker (1779-1832) the London-born botanical illustrator who was employed by the Horticultural Society of London to paint images of fruit, and who published ‘Pomona Londinensis’, c.1816. It is after this Hooker that the colour is named.

      Late replying to comments today as we've been out with friends.

    2. HeHe! Yes! You are! I was gonna put out
      an APB...A Henstridge Alert...! :0).

  5. Love that poem and love that it rhymes. xx

    1. I love it too Sue, mostly because it does rhyme. xx

  6. Good morning dearest Barbara! The greatest Christmas gift can be unwrapped every day, any season. Thank heavens for this life!

  7. Nice poem.
    Old stained glass windows are so cool.

  8. LOVE this! I have a whole collection of John Betjeman (more books never to part with). The pictures you posted to illustrate the poem are just perfect!Thank you for this daily Advent treat, Barbara!

    1. Hi Colleen, I’ve heard of John Betjeman of course and have heard snippets of his poetry, but this is the first time I’ve really fallen in love with something he wrote. I’ve only got two or three poetry books on my shelves but feel it is time to gather more! :)

  9. I've never heard that poem before but I love the descriptive tone of it. The pictures are also lovely. Hugs...RO

    1. I didn’t know it before either, but I’ve fallen in love with it now. Hugs

  10. Beautiful post. I have loved John Betjeman since he came to our school to award prizes when I was a child. Hugs, Valerie

    1. That must have been amazing! I can still remember being so excited when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay visited our school. They were the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest and the first people to sign their names in my autograph book. x

  11. That was lovely & I enjoyed reading it so much I'm going to try and find a copy. Thank you, thank you. Take care.

    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it, thanks for letting me know.

  12. A new Betjeman poem to me. Thank you. Love your original interpretation again!

  13. What a pretty post! The poem and pictures go nicely together. I thought Hookers Green and Crimson Lake (both paint pigments) made perfect sense as a way to describe stained glass.

    1. You are quite right it does make perfect sense now that you have explained it. I wrongly assumed Crimson Lake, and Hookers Green were places! I had never heard either term used in connection to paint pigments hence my utter confusion. Thanks for clearing that up Marcia, I like the poem even more now.

  14. Love the poem and the gorgeous windows. A lovely post. Thank you.

  15. Oh Barbara what a beautiful post.
    I loved reading those words and thought the images were very special.

    Thank you for this enjoyable read.

    All the best Jan

    1. Thank you Jan, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. x

  16. What a lovely poem, Barbara.
    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Oh that is lovely! What a fab poem and I love the accompanying photos!

    1. Thanks Kezzie, I enjoyed putting it together

  18. The poem is beautiful -- and so, too, are the images you chose to illustrate it. I will return to watch the video.

    1. I think you will like the video Jeanie. I wasn’t sure at first, but I’ve watched it several times now, and I absolutely love it.

  19. I can't believe I missed this. It's a beautiful poem. LOVED the photos you chose and enjoyed seeing the video, too. But I still think the photos you took are so meaningful and personal. I really loved this for Day 5's advent calendar.

  20. Thanks for your lovely comment. I like to use my own photos whenever possible but I couldn't find anything that really went with this poem and I wanted to do it justice.

  21. Truly beautiful! Loved the images and loved the poem! Big Hugs!

    1. I love the poem too. Thanks for leaving a comment. x


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Barbara xx