Newbery Award-winning children’s author Susan Cooper and her The Dark Is Rising sequence deeply influenced my youth into adulthood. I may very well owe the fact that I’m a bardic harper to the way her stories echoed within the myth of my soul! You can read more about my journey with The Dark Is Rising series in my article, “An American Harper In Wales”, first published in The Folk Harp Journal, and now beautifully displayed on Eldalamberon.com.
Years later, when I’d begun to celebrate the Winter Solstice, and was performing Celtic Christmas concerts, I discovered the poem below, written by Susan Cooper for (I believe) The Christmas Revels, a magnificent community-based production that celebrates the ancient and mythic roots of many of the season’s folk traditions. I love this poem, and hope you enjoy it too!
The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper
So the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.