In Drear-Nighted December by John Keats

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

The poem I have chosen for December 10th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is In Drear-nighted December by John Keats. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, is by Linda Richardson, who writes:

Had I known that these images would, the following year, accompany the poetry in Waiting on the Word, I would have made more of each of them. Some days I had only a short time to respond, but my daily discipline helped me to meditate on each of the poems, and it was a deeply enriching experience. Perhaps you could find your own way of responding, by walking or learning a part of the poem by heart, or sewing. Perhaps you could print out and stick into the book, an image that you feel captures a part of the poem that speaks most deeply to you.

In this image I used only black Indian ink, masking fluid and water. I wanted to give the impression of bleak leafless trees disappearing into a freezing mist. This stripping back of denuding winter time reveals a beauty and form that has always been there but has gone unnoticed. Think of a cobweb that is invisible until the scintillating frost of winter steals through the landscape as we sleep and turns the morning into a Narnian dream of white.

This denuding also happen to us when, forced by circumstances, we too are stripped back, perhaps by grief as John Keats was, or by struggling with an addiction, humiliation, or anger and depression. What seems like death in the landscape of our lives can, if we wait patiently, teach us to integrate our shadow side and help us to know ourselves. If we can come to prayer like this, letting what we truly are be exposed, because to Him all hearts are exposed, then maturity begins, as we say to Him, ‘Lord take me as I am. I can come to you no other way.’

You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

In Drear-nighted December

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

Their green felicity—

The north cannot undo them

With a sleety whistle through them

Nor frozen thawings glue them

From budding at the prime.

 

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy brook,

Thy bubblings ne’er remember

Apollo’s summer look;

But with a sweet forgetting,

They stay their crystal fretting,

Never, never petting

About the frozen time.

 

Ah! would ‘twere so with many

A gentle girl and boy—

But were there ever any

Writh’d not at passed joy?

The feel of not to feel it,

When there is none to heal it

Nor numbed sense to steel it,

Was never said in rhyme.

3 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

3 responses to “In Drear-Nighted December by John Keats

  1. Bren

    Good choice for this day. Thank you Malcom!

  2. I see you return to this profound and supple December lyric regularly. Today I posted my version of this poem as a song. My reading is a bit rougher than yours and suffers from my midwestern accent which has none of the charm yours does to my own ears. I also suspect I read the poem darker than you do, as I think Keats was getting at sense of feeling without judgement per his letter to Bailey on November 22nd of 1816, around the time he was writing this poem

    http://www.john-keats.com/briefe/221117.htm

    • malcolmguite

      Yes I think it was a dark poem for Keats who was only too aware to f loss and mortality at that point in his life. So mine is as it were a counter- reading to bring out a hidden hope in the poem of which Keats himself was perhaps scarcely aware

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