Stilla Natt, Heliga Natt!

Way down south I’m watching them,
the Swedes at Advent with “Lucia”;
blonde children in a double file
trailing in an edge of summer.

The leading girl, perhaps thirteen,
wears steadily her crown of candles.
They weave their way through northern chords
preceded by a song from Naples

boatmen sing out on the bay.
St Lucy was an early martyr
who, having had her eyes put out,
moves north to ease the arctic darkness.

I hear the half-familiar hymns
sung in words I do not know.
I relish their geometries.
I do not share their faith although

I understand the shape it gives:
the sudden star, the three wise men,
the Christ child and the virgin mother,
the “no room at the inn” again.

To hear it in a foreign tongue
from children troubles disbelief.
The narrative is archetypal.
I wrestle with its sweet relief.

Geoff Page

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