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A Child's Christmas In Wales

Rating: 3.3

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Kevin Straw 06 May 2009

This is not an essay or a poem, it is a short story and should not be on this site.

16 80 Reply
Jimmy Pierce 16 December 2009

If this is not poetry, I don't know what is - such beauty, such imagery... much of what I hear on Keillor's Writer's Almanac has long since left behind the strict rules of iambic pentameter, cadence and rhyme, and is simply beauty in words. This is surely that, in spades.

39 43 Reply
Richard Adams 06 January 2008

I bought a copy of this poem in 1959 and have had it in my library since as a cherished treasure. Thomas is in that great Welsh tradition of musical poetry. The recording of him reading it has been a favorite for years, even though his diction is either somewhat affected or markedly provincial.Like so many poets of his generation, he kind of chants the poem. Thomas' eye and ear for what fascinates and attracts a child about winter and Christmas at home, and his language are unerringly accurate. My children also adore the work, and often ask me to read it to them as part of our observation of the season and day, a duty I shamelessly relish. It's always been heartbreaking to know of his early demise and destructive relationship with alcohol, a real moth-flame affair. Too sad. This work of his figures in my every celebration of Christmas, in one way or another, and likely will always do so.

39 36 Reply
Ben Dover 28 March 2008

what an amazing poem i also share a passion for mars bars just as this poem states

27 40 Reply
Terry Browne 26 November 2009

Since the film was broadcast in South Africa by m-net in the late 80's, this has been a firm favourite of my wife and I every year. Unfortunately I don't have Dylan's recording, which I would love to hear, but the late Denholm Elliot's reading in the film is brilliant, his accent is just right for a non-Walean such as myself! A film and poem to be thoroughly recommended. Would make a delightful play for a suitable school young age group, in my opinion.

23 40 Reply

Congratulations on the choice of Poem Hunter as The Classic Poem Of The Day!

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Love to read and reread this fascinating poem, especially with my grandkids.

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2) This work of his figures in my every celebration of Christmas, in one way or another, and likely will always do so.5 Stars full for the great poet

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Congratulations to the family of the late great poet. It's always been heartbreaking to know of his early demise and destructive relationship with alcohol, a real moth-flame affair. Too sad.

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Harley White 25 December 2020

For me this is the best Christmas writing of all which I love every year! Bravo, Dylan Thomas!

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