A new song in my mouth

Twelfth Night 2011

Twelfth Night has come and gone with a last bright flourish, and today I’ve had my own little personal bonfires of Christmas greens in each of the fireplaces. Down came the garlands of pine and the scarlet jewels of holly, the ivy wreaths and the festal red ribbons. Beloved ornaments have been swaddled in tissue and creche figures carefully wrapped and the little kneeling angel that reminds me throughout the blessed bustle what it’s all about has been stowed in her box for another year. And as I’ve worked I’ve been gently haunted by a song, new to me this Christmas season and yet centuries old, which has sung its sweet balm over the tender finality of this dismantling day and stirred my heart with a freshened hope for the New Year. It was really no surprise to find that it was written by the Cavalier poet Robert Herrick, one of my very favorites. I’d like to share it with you here, in the hopes that it will strengthen and thrill your hearts with the good that is always coming–just as it has mine.

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly, now upraise
The greener box for show.

The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day
Or Easter’s eve appear.

Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honor Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To readorn the house.

Thus times do shift, each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed as former things grow old.

Robert Herrick, Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve

It’s become something of an anthem for me this year, and a charge to savor the beauty of the season I’m in, without impatience for the next or undue sadness over that which has passed. I’m even flirting with the idea of taking the poem literally to heart and decorating my house in accordance with the seasons of the liturgical calendar, though Candlemas Eve is a bit of a stretch for the Christmas greens. And I’ll have to come up with an appropriate substitute for yew. πŸ˜‰

But at least my boxwood wreaths are staying up for a while–they dry so beautifully.

"Thus times do shift, thus times do shift, each thing its time doth hold; new things succeed, new things succeed, as former things grow old."

Best blessings, kind readers, on this adventure of a new year. ‘Lift up your heads with joyful hope’, for the God who delights in doing us good is doing a new thing…

Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43: 18, 19

13 Responses to “A new song in my mouth”

  1. Gretchen says:

    I’m so glad you found a song to brighten your spirits as you take down all your beautiful decorations… Many hugs to you, my friend!

  2. I love Robert Herrick. Thanks for mentioning him. There’s so much disappointment and sadness in his story–and yet, as you point out, the hope that better things are ahead. I love the way he forever finds meaning peeping out from the earthy and everyday business of living.

  3. Sharon says:

    There is so much that would drag down our spirits and our faith. Surely this “joyful hope” is one of the best gifts we are offered.

  4. Heather says:

    How lovely. I’m relatively new to your blog, Lanier, so please forgive my ignorance, but are you the beautiful blonde in the picture? Is this your singing ensemble? I listened to the two tracks you provided recently and enjoyed them very much.
    Thank you for aspiring to provide such beauty here. It is indeed appreciated and thought about long after the computer is logged out. πŸ™‚

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Well, Heather, I don’t know about the ‘beautiful’ part ;), but, yes, that’s me. And *part* of our little ensemble. πŸ˜‰

      Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. I’m so happy that you have found a spot of beauty here. Thanks be to God.

  5. I have never heard that before, beautiful. I took all my Christmas decorations down earlier than usual this year (a few days after Christmas) since I had a major organization project I wanted to do in the beginning of the year. We have a small-ish house with no attic or basement so the decorations had to go back to their eleven month long home on garage shelves (although in very nice Rubbermaid containers).

    As part of the organizing of my bedroom closet today, I had to put all my Christmas CDs in a wicker basket on the upper shelf in the closet. Unlike the decorations, they do come down once in awhile throughout the year. πŸ™‚

    It is always wonderful to see a new post from you.

  6. lea says:

    as a singer, i particularly loved this post@

  7. Mary Beth says:

    Lanier, such a lovely, romantic post! Love.

  8. Laura says:

    Lanier, What balm! I would fly to wherever and back to fetch you a yew if you’d share a recording of that song you and Griffin so beautifully performed…

  9. Heather says:

    Beautiful song! I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. Fitting for this time of year. For the first time in my life, I prepared a dinner in celebration of Twelfth Night. However, I’m hoping to keep the tree until the end of this week…

    Happiest of Januaries!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      With an unheard-of six inches of snow on the ground, I’m starting to wish we had not taken ours down yet, Heather! πŸ˜‰ Happy January, to you, too!

  10. Kiersti says:

    Your posts are such a blessing, Lanier…thank you for letting His beauty shine through you and for always pointing us to Him.


  11. sugarmoon says:

    Love your writing. Will be checking back.

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