Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
1:26 PM 24th December 2021

Christmas Poem Of The Week: 'Mistletoe' By Walter De La Mare (1873-1956)


Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Walter de la Mare
Walter de la Mare
A dismal year draws to a grateful close, like heavy curtains against darkness. The contagion proliferates, if weakened, but we needn’t despair because Walter de la Mare’s poem of ghosts and longed-for embraces is milk of magnesia to indulgent urges, of the comforting sort that yield little beyond dyspepsia and a general sense of undirected ennui.

De la Mare’s rhyming septets are simple in the rendering and need little commentary. Solitary at the end of a Christmas festivity, the drowsing narrator conjures another presence in the reflective candlelight, as though the act of ‘nodding’ into semi-sleep were a portal to another emollient realm, where memories are restored in manifestations of unseen lips and a kiss. A poem of recapitulation, perhaps even wishful-thinking, a renewed symbolism is conferred on the mistletoe whose meaning has turned anodyne in an era of transactional kitsch.

A happy Christmas to all our readers !