Poemas de Navidad: Mary Elizabeth Coleridge y G. K. Chesterton

ZP_ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ  Norval Morrisseau_Virgin Mary with Christ Child and St. John the Baptist, 1973

ZP_ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ Norval Morrisseau_Virgin Mary with Christ Child and St. John the Baptist, 1973

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907)

“Vi un establo”


Vi un estable, tan bajo, desnudo,

Con un niño diminuto al heno.

Le conocieron los bueyes y cuidaron de Él

– al hombre fue un desconocido.

La seguridad del mundo estaba tendido

Allá en el jacal

– el peligro del mundo, también.


.     .     .


“I saw a stable”


I saw a stable, low and very bare,

A little child in a manger.

The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,

To men He was a stranger.

The safety of the world was lying there,

And the world’s danger.


.     .     .


G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

“The House of Christmas”


There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;

In the place where she was homeless

All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,

With shaking timber and shifting sand,

Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand

Than the square stones of Rome.


For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honour and high surprise;

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the Yule tale was begun.


A child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

Bur our hearts we lost – how long ago! –

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky’s dome.


This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,

And strange the plain things are,

The earth is enough and the air is enough

For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings

Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings

Round an incredible star.


To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome;

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

.     .     .     .     .

Sviaty Vechir: Ukrainian Holy Evening





An Angel on My Shoulder

(An Old-World Ballad)


Along the edge of the world at night
in the light of the Lord’s candle
somebody is wandering alone
with an angel on his shoulder.


He’s walking towards nowhere, to non-return,
he’s walking lazily like a child,
and the gray pendulum of life
prods him from behind,


so he won’t roam at night
in the light of the Lord’s candle,
so he won’t ramble around
with an angel on his shoulder.


A whirling wind blows,
a pestilential Herod howls,
the pendulum is striking stronger,
the barely alive angel is moaning.


But he keeps going on and on,
though the candle’s no longer breathing,
just his lips quiver:
angel, don’t fall from my shoulder.




Folk Scene



On a heap amidst thistles,
on coal, soggy from rains,
two angels dwell.


They wax each other’s wings,
they kiss each other’s eyes,
awaiting Christmas.


Near them a lovely infant,
and no one can guess
who’s guarding whom?


Is the infant guarding angels or
do white-winged ones watch the child,
leaping, aiming for heaven?


What can white angels do
on this black soil?  Crush coal
or weep into blue skies?


Each angel would carry the baby
into heaven’s garden any moment,
God does not will it . . .


On a heap of discarded Christmas trees,
and dirty orange peels,
on the frozen grass –


two angels and an infant
clutching a Christmas carol in its fist
– Christmas has gone.




Ivan Malkovych / Іван Малкович,

born in Ukraine in 1961,

gave up poetry ten years ago to devote himself

to writing children’s books in Ukrainian – and this

creative task he describes as “the noblest work”.

When Christmas imagery appears in his poetry he

up-ends cliché with his alert, quizzical mind

yet a real love of Ukrainian tradition also comes through,

making these unusual poems special for January 6th:

Ukrainian Christmas Eve.


Translations from Ukrainian into English:

Michael M. Naydan  (An Angel on My Shoulder)

Bohdan Boychuk and Myrosia Stefaniuk  (Folk Scene)

Рождество Христово – Ио́сиф Алекса́ндрович Бро́дский


Ио́сиф Алекса́ндрович Бро́дский


Рождество 1963:  1



Спаситель родился

в лютую стужу.

В пустыне пылали пастушьи костры.

Буран бушевал и выматывал душу

из бедных царей, доставлявших дары.

Верблюды вздымали лохматые ноги.

Выл ветер.

Звезда, пламенея в ночи,

смотрела, как трех караванов дороги

сходились в пещеру Христа, как лучи.





Christmas 1963:  1



The saviour was born

into fierce, brutish cold.

Shepherds’ small campfires blazed in the wasteland.

A blizzard seethed and battered the souls

of the humble kings who bore gifts for the infant.

The camels lifted their shaggy legs in sequence.

The wind howled.

The star, aflame in the night,

looked on as the paths of the three processions

converged on Christ’s cave like beams of light.





Рождество 1963:  2



Волхвы пришли. Младенец крепко спал.
Звезда светила ярко с небосвода.
Холодный ветер снег в сугроб сгребал.
Шуршал песок. Костер трещал у входа.
Дым шел свечой. Огонь вился крючком.
И тени становились то короче,
то вдруг длинней. Никто не знал кругом,
что жизни счет начнется с этой ночи.
Волхвы пришли. Младенец крепко спал.
Крутые своды ясли окружали.
Кружился снег. Клубился белый пар.
Лежал младенец, и дары лежали.





Christmas 1963:  2



The magi had come. The infant soundly slept.
The star shone brightly from the vaulted sky.
A cold wind swept the snow up into drifts.
The sand rustled. A bonfire crackled nearby.
Smoke plumed skyward. Flames hooked and writhed.
The shadows cast by the fire grew now shorter,
now suddenly longer. No one there yet realized
that on that very night life’s count had started.
The magi had come. The infant soundly slept.
Steep arches loomed above the manger.
Snow swirled about. White steam rose in wisps.
With gifts piled near him, the child slept like an angel.




Joseph Brodsky / Ио́сиф Алекса́ндрович Бро́дский

(1940-1996) was born of Jewish parents

in Leningrad.  He began to write poetry in his mid-teens

and taught himself English so that he could translate John

Donne into Russian.  In 1960 he met the 70-year-old

Anna Akhmatova, who had written the great epic poem

“Requiem” about Stalin’s Terror in the 1930s.

Her encouragement brought out in the young Brodsky

a flow of ideas and creativity – such that by 1963 he was

being denounced as a social parasite and anti-Soviet.

Arrested, put on trial, he spent 18 months at a labour camp

in the Arctic.

He kept on with his poetry after his release but

harassment became routine.  In 1972, after persecution by

authorities who sought to have him declared schizophrenic and,

therefore, “useless to society”, he was put on a plane out of the

USSR and, with the help of foreign poets who valued his work,

he settled in the USA.


The Nativity – and the many themes of Life it touches upon –

was a constant topic in Brodsky’s poetry.   He wrote

one or more Nativity poems per year between 1961 and



We are grateful to Jamie Olson

for his translation from the Russian.

Visit his site:  http://www.theflaxenwave.com