Louis MacNeice


To end all carols, darling, 
    To end all carols now, 
Let us walk through the cloister  
    With a thoughtful brow, 

Pruning what was grafted 
    Through ages of blind faith — 
The rubrics and the finials 
    Drift away like breath. 

From Bethlehem the sheep-bells 
    Grew to a steepled peal, 
The joists of the stable 
    Spread an ashlar chill, 

The rafters of the stable 
    Hooped themselves on high 
And coveys of boys' voices 
    Burst on a stone sky; 

While the wrinkled, whimpering image 
    Wrapped in his mother's shawl 
Was carried between pillars 
    Down endless aisles and all 

The doors opened before him 
    In every holy place 
And the doors came to behind him, 
    Left him in cold space. 

Beyond our prayers and knowing, 
    Many light-years away — 
So why sing carols, darling? 
    To-day is to-day. 

Then answered the angel: 
    To-day is to-day 
And the Son of God is vanished 
    But the sons of men stay 

And man is a spirit 
    And symbols are his meat, 
So pull not down the steeple 
    In your monied street. 

For money chimes feebly, 
    Matter dare not sing — 
Man is a spirit, 
    Let the bells ring. 

Ring all your changes, darling, 
    Save us from the slough; 
Begin all carols, darling, 
    Begin all carols now.