Ireland has just edged passed midnight and into Christmas Day as I write this. At this time each year, I think of the Christmas Truce which occurred on Christmas Day among the soldiers in the trenches in World War in1914, one hundred and one years ago now.
I sense I can hear them singing Silent Night and creating a momentary peace in one of the most vicious wars in history.
It’s a night, too, that brings me to the poetry of Francis Ledwidge, from Slane in Co. Meath, who will killed in action in Ypres in 1917.
A burst of sudden wings at dawn,
Faint voices in a dreamy noon,
Evenings of mist and murmurings,
And nights with rainbows of the moon.
And through these things in a wood-way dim,
And waters dim, and slow sheep seen
On uphill paths that wind away
Through summers sounds and harvest green.
This is a song a robin sang
This morning on a broken tree,
It was about the little fields
That call across the world to me.
(from The Ledwidge Treasury: Selected Poems (2007) Dublin: New Island)
This poem makes me think of all those who, like Francis Ledwidge, crave to be back home in Ireland, be they in the defence forces abroad or people who have had to emigrate due to the recession.
It also brings me to the current efforts by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass and talks vice-chair Dr Meghan O’Sullivan to try resolve some of the outstanding issues in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
Peace in so fundamental to life, be it peace of mind, peace of heart, or peace between warring factions.
May this Christmas be peaceful for you at all levels.