Dec. 25, 2008

little tree

by E. E. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look     the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

"little tree" by e.e. cummings, from 100 Selected Poems by e. e. cummings. © Grove Weidenfeld, 1959. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's Christmas Day.

On this day in 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

25. Christmas day. Lay pretty long in bed. And then rise, leaving my wife desirous to sleep, having sat up till 4 this morning seeing her maids make mince-pies. I go to church, where our parson Mills made a good sermon. Then home, and dine well on some good ribs of beef roasted and mince pies; only my wife, brother, and Barker, and plenty of good wine of my own; and my heart full of true joy and thanks to God Almighty for the goodness of my condition at this day.

And Christmas Day is the setting for John Cheever's short story "Christmas Is a Sad Season For the Poor." Charlie is a man who works as an elevator operator in an elegant Park Avenue apartment building in New York City. He has to work on Christmas Day, and everyone who rides the elevator wishes him a merry Christmas, and he responds by saying, "It isn't much of a holiday for me. Christmas is a sad season when you're poor. I live alone in a furnished room. I don't have any family." His rich clients respond to his story with sympathy, and he ends up with an absurd array of food and gifts. He feels guilty for having so much all of a sudden, so he tries to give some of his expensive new gifts to the landlady, who he knows is also poor. But she has also been showered with presents and is preparing to give away some of her gifts to an even poorer family — and there is a whole chain of people passing on gifts to those they think are poorer than themselves, in order to make themselves feel better. Cheever writes that they are driven by "first love, then charity, and then a sense of power."

Today is the birthday of scientist and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England, in 1642. He went to Cambridge University, and while he was home for a school break, he discovered the law of universal gravitation, explaining how things fall and also why planets have orbits. He also began to develop calculus, and he discovered that white light is composed of all of the colors in the spectrum. After graduating, he built the first reflecting telescope.

It's the birthday of Clara Barton, born in Oxford, Massachusetts, in 1821. She was working in Washington, D.C., when the Civil War broke out, and she began tending to wounded soldiers. She was afraid that soldiers would lose too much blood if they were brought to a hospital, so she started the practice of treating the wounded at the battlefield. Eventually, she went on to found the American Red Cross.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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