In direction of the Finish of the Feast
One of the simplest ways to bear
that flaming pud
signalling the latter levels of our feast
just isn’t Kenneth McKellar’s rictus grin
nor the fugitive grimace
that passes for a smile amongst males.
One of the simplest ways to hold
between steamer and desk
the darkish fruit of our final course:
let slip the clay-white platter
and within the second earlier than
the mess on the ground,
the crash, the stricken faces,
know to your fingertips
the enjoyment of letting go,
lightness dashing up
to greet you want an previous pal.
Thus did my father on his final Christmas,
from palms that when had eased
many a bairn into the world,
lookup at us, with the smile of a kid.
That the household Christmas may be some form of an endurance take a look at fairly than a comfortable intergenerational trade of Santa-patterned socks and carol-singing viruses is implied by the opening stanzas of this week’s poem. Its tone and rhythmical terseness register the sense of an ordeal that’s nearly past irony. The verb “bear” within the first line strongly suggests “grin and bear it”, whereas “flaming” in “that flaming pud” can’t merely imply a gush of efficiently ignited liquor. It alerts an imprecation – “flaming” within the colloquial sense (well mannered model). Christmas puddings aren’t universally beloved, in any case: they may be seen as a heavy embellishment of “the latter levels of our feast” – as heavy and demanding as previous age.
Background leisure doesn’t assist: the singer’s “rictus grin” emphasises efficiency, and the “fugitive grimace / that passes for a smile amongst males” is audience-response at its bleakest. The quick “I” sounds that predominate heighten the tight-lipped impact.
The third stanza appears to start out the poem once more, as if it had girded itself for an additional try and get previous offended disappointment and voice the difficult-to-celebrate. This time, “bear” is defined as “carry”, and “the darkish fruit of our final course” asserts a clearly metaphorical attain.
Preceded by a colon, the fourth tercet acquires an crucial ring, nearly as if the speaker have been issuing an instruction to the service of the pud, to “let slip the white platter”. It’s now that the poem picks up in temper. There’s launch for the narrator, liberation for the miscreant.
We could surprise if, within the second simply earlier than the plate falls, the perpetrator foresees the consequence (“the mess on the ground, // the crash, the stricken faces”). The order of occasions, starting with the mess fairly than the crash, suggests how they may happen within the creativeness fairly than actual time, though it’s not unimaginable that the mess, at the very least a few of it, would precede the crash. The faces around the desk register dismay: they’re “stricken”. Nobody laughs.
For the speaker, any shock or embarrassment is held at bay. The accident is remodeled by anarchic self-discovery: “know to your fingertips / the enjoyment of letting go, // lightness dashing up / to greet you want an previous pal”. The speaker is speaking about his father, as we now discover out, and witnessed the occasion on the father’s “final Christmas”.
All of the pathos of rising previous and dropping abilities and identification touches the final part of the anecdote. We be taught that the daddy has delivered or helped ship infants in his time (“many a bairn” is the nice and cozy and homely phrase): he was deft, mild and exact. Now there’s fulfilment of the sooner metaphorical prefiguration of dying: even “clay-white platter” now suggests the chilly clay of mortality. So a deeper mood-dip happens with the emphasis on the distinction between the youthful man’s helpful life and his current decline.
The daddy is unaware of the change, nevertheless. He merely appreciates the brand new “lightness” – probably sensing the liberty from the calls for of maturity, the escape from the propriety represented by these grimacing, stricken faces. The poem ends along with his uninhibited smile. Maybe it will be too sentimental to say the spirit of Christmas has been liberated, however this aged man’s smile, unselfconscious as a younger baby’s, is rendered harmless and triumphant. The smile and the narrator’s response to it are real and open-hearted. In opposition to the chances, a very good reminiscence has been made.
Andrew Grieg is certainly one of Scotland’s main senior poets; he’s additionally a novelist, musician and mountaineer. In direction of the Finish of the Feast is from his most up-to-date assortment, Later That Day.