The Shortest Day

Susan Cooper wrote her solstice poem, The Shortest Day, in 1977, for Christmas Revels.  It’s been read and performed at Revels celebrations ever since.  In 2019, she and illustrator Carson Ellis collaborated on a beautiful book; I’d call it a book for children of all ages.

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

I appreciated her description of it, during an interview on NPR, as a “celebration of the light coming back after the dark threatens to take over the world.”

This has certainly been, in myriad ways, a dark year. But we in the Northern Hemisphere know that, starting tomorrow, each day will contain a bit more light.

21 December 2020; 3:07 PM

6 comments

  • If it is the shortest day, why does it feel ETERNAL????????????? I am getting a little kvetchy….

    Gorgeous picture on your post. You took that? Thank you for that..

    Liked by 1 person

  • Apologies for being a week late with the solstice celebration, JDB. Light travels slower in the southern hemisphere, without beseeching fires to lure it forwards.

    A lovely personal connection here, the poem being new to me, but its author quite familiar. I was a huge fan of Ms Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising” books back when Children’s Lit was a bit of a thing. I don’t think I kept them–too many book culls down the years–but I reckon the boy might enjoy them. He’s just finished the Earthsea trilogy.

    Fabulous photos, Dr.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the fact that you were already familiar with Susan Cooper! I hadn’t known of her until hearing her interviewed on National Public Radio just before the solstice (she’s had a very interesting life). And those photos are now part of my ever-expanding quarantine album!

      Liked by 1 person

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