Nicholas Was… by Neil Gaiman

Nicholas Was…

older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in

their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not

actually working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the

journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves’ invisible

gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen into time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

 

by Neil Gaiman

from Smoke & Mirrors


In 1989, Neil Gaiman and Sandman artist David McKean collaborated on a hundred word Christmas card story titled “Nicholas Was.” Below is a short animated version created by 39 Degrees North Studio.


 

 


 

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The Sugar Angel by Alexander Blok

Through the closed nursery doors, the sugar angel

stares through the chink to see

the children playing at the Christmas party,

the brightly candled tree.

 

Nana is making up the crackling fire,

a blaze for Christmas Day.

Only the sugar angel – he is German –

wastes, warm and sweet, away.

 

First comes the softening of his little feathers,

the melting of his feet,

the tiny head falls back, he makes a puddle,

minute and warm and sweet.

 

And then the puddle dries away. The mistress

looks everywhere in vain,

while old deaf Nana, who remembers nothing,

grumbles and looks again.

 

You fragile creatures of our dearest daydreams!

Break, melt and vanish away

in the bright-burning blaze of hourly happenings,

the clatter of everyday.

 

Only a little mischevious girl, recalling

the breath of days departed,

will weep for you in secret for a moment.

A child is tender-hearted.

 

by Александр Александрович Блок (Alexander Alexandrovich Blok)

(1909)

translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman

The Donkey by G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born.

 

With monsterous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil’s walking parody

On all four-footed things.

 

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge,  deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.

 

Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.

Journey Of The Magi by T. S. Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it.

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces.

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

 

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky.

And an old white horse galloping away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

 

by T. S. Eliot (1885-1965)

from Ariel Poems

A Star In The East by Idris Davies

When Christmastide to Rhymney came

And I was six or seven

I thought the stars in the eastern sky

Were the brightest stars of heaven.

 

I chose the star that glittered most

To the east of Rhymney town

To be the star above the byre

Where Mary’s babe lay down.

 

And nineteen hundred years would meet

Beneath a magic light,

And Rhymney share with Bethlehem

A star on Christmas night.

 

by Idris Davies

Russian Short Stories To Read Over The New Year and Christmas Period

Happy New Year to you all! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! С новым годом!

New Year’s Day and to a lesser extent Christmas are a major holidayperiod in Russia and of course some of her greatest writers wrote stories set during this time of year.

You may wonder why I titled this entry with New Year preceding Christmas. The answer is quite simple: In Russia the Eastern Orthodox Church follows the Julian calender and thus celebrates Christmas Day on or near January 7. This date works to be December 25, in the Julian Calender, which pre-dates the Gregorian calendar most of us use today.

Nonetheless here is the reading list for you to choose from:

  • THE NEW YEAR’S TREE by Mikhail Zoshchenko
  • THE BOYS by Anton Chekhov
  • A CHRISTMAS TREE AND A WEDDING by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • AT CHRISTMASTIDE by Anton Chekhov
  • DREAM OF A YOUNG TSAR by Lev Tolstoy
  • MAKAR’S DREAM by Vladimir Korolenko
  • A WOMAN’S KINGDOM by Anton Chekhov
  • A DISTANT CHRISTMAS EVE by Kaudia Lukashevich
  • THE LITTLE BOY AT CHRIST’S CHRISTMAS TREE by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • CHRISTMAS PHANTOMS by Maxim Gorky
  • A LIFELESS ANIMAL by Teffi (a.k.a. Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya)
  • MY LAST CHRISTMAS by Mikhail Zoshchenko

There are no doubt many others so if you have any recommendations please leave a comment.