Christmas 9: Join the dancing

illus085
Fra Angelico, “Dance of the Blessed”

On the ninth day of Christmas, apparently, someone’s true love once gave them nine ladies dancing. Impractical though this is as a Christmas present (not to mention hard to wrap), it suits today’s carol well: the majestic “In dulci jubilo”, set by the seventeenth-century German Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius. The story of the text, originally written by 13th-century German mystic Heinrich Suso, is a story of dancing being brought into the midst of grief. According to the (auto?)biography of Suso, The Life of the Servant, Suso was told by an angel to stop the intense mortifications that he was practising and instead to join the angels in their dance: “Now this same angel came up to the Servant [Suso] brightly, and said that God had sent him down to him, to bring him heavenly joys amid his sufferings; adding that he must cast off all his sorrows from his mind and bear them company, and that he must also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then they drew the Servant by the hand into the dance, and the youth [angel] began a joyous song about the infant Jesus, which runs thus: ‘In dulci jubilo’, etc.” It may or may not be a true story (more about the fascinating life of Suso can be read here), but the f
act remains that a man known for his austere ascetic practices also gave the medieval church one of its most joyful hymns. Today’s poem is inspired by Suso and the angel’s words.

Join the dancing

Angels dance around the stall.
Sing! Sing! One and all.

Come to earth, enthroned in hay,
sleeps the shining, living Day.

Leave your grieving songs, your weeping.
Dance, dance, with angels leaping.

Though the darkness now may linger,
Heaven dwells within a manger.

Cast off your ashes and your sackcloth.
The king is resting in a food trough.

Nothing now can snuff his light.
Sing, dance, with all your might.

One thought on “Christmas 9: Join the dancing

  1. Heavily sidetracked before Christmas, I have now made it my goal to carefully read and listen to all your Christmas poem and song offerings, at the rate of one per day as I am cleaning up my inbox, and they are bringing me great joy. (Especially now since most Christmas offerings are again off the radio until at least November.) Thank you for all the work you put into these.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s