Tuesday, 14 December 2010


“Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: Avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” - Francesco Petrarca

As Christmas approaches, the pace is increasing and things at work seem to get more hectic as we try to tie up loose ends but also deal with the last demands of this year’s business. Nevertheless, the spirit of the season has started to invade the workplace and Christmas decorations adorn the front desk and a Christmas tree greets visitors at reception. People’s desks are showing signs of the Festive Season ahead, draped with tinsel or bearing miniature Christmas trees. Not only the local students, but even our international students (who are Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist) enjoy the decorations and seem to get into the joyous spirit of the season, which after all carries a universal message of peace, love and brotherhood of all human beings.

Gifts have started to be exchanged as some staff leave early for their holiday break and this Friday we have a special gathering to give out our Kris Kringle gifts. This afternoon I joined some colleagues at the Alfred Hospital, with which we are collaborating on a research project and we all had Christmas drinks and exchanged good wishes for the festive season.s

Yesterday while going to the train station, my ear caught the familiar strains of an Australian carol that we sang in school. I shall offer this as the poem for Poetry Wednesday:

(The Oxen)

As you sit by your wide open window
On that most blessed night of the year,
And you look at your slumbering oxen
In the paddock the wind has burned sere;
And you think of that old Christmas story,
Of the beast and the Heavenly glory
You’ll remember it tells how at midnight,
When the bells are beginning to ring
All the oxen kneel down in their paddocks
As they worship the Heavenly King.

All the oxen so patient and lowing
Bowing down to the infant most Holy,
While you gaze through the bright summer moonlight
All the pasture will glimmer like gold;
And you’ll wait by the wide open window
Just to see if such wonders unfold
Just to see if the oxen are kneeling
When the Christmas bells all begin pealing.

John Wheeler
The first set of carols by William G. James (1895-1977) was published in 1948, the second in 1954 and the third in 1961. The first five carols (Set I) are probably still the most popular of them all. They have become something of an icon in Australian Christmas celebrations. What is it that makes them so popular? To begin with, Wheeler’s words transport Christmas from a chilly Northern Winter to a humid Southern Summer. They are populated with local flora and fauna. Oriental wise men are transmuted into hardy Australian drovers. As for the music, it is simple and accessible, with memorable, “hummable” tunes, which are always enjoyable were enjoyable. James wrote in this vein ‘for the people’, and judging by the popularity of his carols, he succeeded…

The painting above is "Sommerlandskap med Kuer" by Anders Askevold.

1 comment:

  1. That's beautiful, Nicholas. I have to find it sung now. off to YouTube!