As we took down our (limited) Christmas decorations on 6th January, I was thinking about the importance of Twelfth Night or Epiphany. Epiphany is the Feast of the Three Kings and is the day that the three kings visited Jesus in Bethlehem, after following a bright star, and presented their gifts to the baby Jesus.
There are a number of poems about Epiphany. A couple of my favourites are W H Auden The Summons and Richard Crashaw's A Hymn for the Epiphany.
The weather has been awful,
The countryside is dreary,
Marsh, jungle, rock; and echoes mock,
Calling our hope unlawful;
But a silly song can help along
Yours ever and sincerely:
At least we know for certain that we are three old sinners,
That this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners,
And miss our wives, our books, our dogs,
But have only the vaguest idea why we are what we are.
To discover how to be human now
Is the reason we follow this star.
Richard Crashaw's poem is far more ornate in its use of conceits, and is very typical of of the poet's Baroque sensibilities. Written a few centuries before Auden's poem, there is a joy in Crashaw's verse, for which the modern reader can overlook the poet's excesses.
For love of thee,
Thus far from home
The East is come
To seek herself in thy sweet eyes.
We who strangely went astray,
Lost in a bright
A darkness made of too much day;
Beckoned from far
By thy fair star,
Lo, at last have found our way.
To thee, thou Day of Night! thou East of West!
Lo, we at last have found the way
To thee, the world's great universal East,
The general and indifferent day.
All-circling point! all-centring sphere!
The world's one round eternal year ...