A Christmas Oratorio

During World War II, the poet W.H. Auden wrote a book-length poem entitled “For the Time Being.” It is subtitled, “A Christmas Oratorio,” and he desired that it be set to music; because it is fifty-two pages long as it is, without the addition of music or stage directions, he could have easily subtitled it, “The Longest Christmas Oratorio: Bring Snacks.” Benjamin Britten decided that composing music for the full work was too difficult so he set two sections to music.

“For the Time Being” was published in 1944. I will explore it a bit more tomorrow. It is found in Auden’s Collected Poems. Here is one section:

At the Manger

O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger
With their watchfulness; protected by its shade
Escape from my care: what can you discover
From my tender look but how to be afraid?
Love can but confirm the more it would deny.
     Close your bright eye.

Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you
But an anxiety your Father cannot feel?
Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you,
Or my mother love, but tempt you from His will?
Why was I chosen to teach His son to weep?
     Little One, sleep.

Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven
Where no one need pray or ever feel alone.
In your first few hours of life here, O have you
Chosen already what death must be your own?
How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way?
     Dream while you may.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 24 asks, “Our blogs morph over time, as interests shift and life happens. Write a post for your blog—but three years in the future.” The above does not answer this request, but Happy Christmas Eve Day, everyone!

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  1. Catherine Hamrick · December 24, 2015

    Thanks for putting Auden on my radar today. Are you going to do a roundup of your best posts for 2015? That would be cool! Happy holidays, my talented friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. camparigirl · December 24, 2015

    A very Merry Christmas Mark, and a wonderful 2016. I will toast to more great writing for the year to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: For Christmas: ‘For the Time Being’ | The Gad About Town
  4. Pingback: A Christmas Oratorio: ‘For the Time Being’ | The Gad About Town

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