Please recommend a short piece I can recite at a Winter Solstice party.
June 19, 2014 7:35 AM   Subscribe

I've been invited to a Winter Solstice party and the host would like me to participate by reciting a poem or short written piece. My muse has deserted me so I can't write anything at the moment. What would be a good piece to share?
posted by h00py to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day by John Donne.
posted by misteraitch at 7:39 AM on June 19, 2014

Ancient Music by Ezra Pound.
Dust of Snow and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.
posted by ubiquity at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2014

Is "Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening" too obvious?
posted by katemonster at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2014

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 7:56 AM on June 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

"I have news for you:
The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken, its shape is lost.
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
cold has seized the birds' wings;
season of ice, this is my news."

—Irish poem, ninth century CE
posted by ottereroticist at 7:58 AM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was at something like this once, and someone started Hazy Shade of Winter, and we all laughed, but then, by the time it was done, it was the best reading of the night.

However, take out verse 2 ("Hear the Salvation Army band" through "Carry your cup in your hand"), move verse 4 ("Seasons change with the scenery" through "Drinking my vodka and lime" to second, and end with verse 3 ("Hang on to your hopes, my friend" through "It's the springtime of my life"). It's up to you whether to bother with the chorus ("Leaves are brown / And the sky / Is a hazy shade of winter").
posted by Etrigan at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Velvet Shoes - calm, arresting, evocative, soft, not too long.
posted by amtho at 8:24 AM on June 19, 2014

It's very short, so maybe as part of a couple pieces, but I love love love Dust of Snow by Robert Frost.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2014

Don't know if it's too religious for your purpose/gathering but I always read Journey of the Magi at the solstice.
posted by angiep at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2014

"Toward the Winter Solstice" by Timothy Steele.
posted by xenization at 8:55 AM on June 19, 2014

These are beautiful and I thank you all. My winter doesn't involve snow (although it does feature sub-zero temperatures!) so anything involving a snowless winter would probably be more apt. Thank you for giving me some wonderful poetry to read, though!
posted by h00py at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a terrible suggestion since it's a horrific downer, but one of the greatest poems in the English language was written for the winter solstice.

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night's festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:25 AM on June 19, 2014

St. Lucy's day isn't for another six months, personally, I think it would be a weird choice. What about the third stanza of Margaret Atwood's long solstice poem (the first two mention snow a lot more) or her snowless one or another? I like the hazy shade of winter idea, or I would sing "This little light of mine" - hooky, but fun. Are their any aborigine poems that would be appropriate?
posted by saucysault at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2014

"Ring Out, Solstice Bells"

Now is the solstice of the year,
winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together beneath the mistletoe.
by the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.
Ring out those bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out.
posted by Gungho at 11:08 AM on June 19, 2014

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