Advent Firesiders

Carols iii (2012)

A survey of the lines of some of our most popular carols produce the following familiar rhymes:

Now there's nothing wrong with any of these but the writer of new carol words must avoid them at all cost unless he is deliberately pointing the reader or listener back to a previous work by way of reverence or parody.

A Stranger in Bethlehem (and other Christmas carols)

More serious challenges - to me at least - are posed by the possibilities of prominent words in the rhyming lexicon: snow and undefiled, the first handily rhyming with "below", the second nicely tying the mother in with the mild child. but, you see, I don't believe it was snowing at the time and, handy though this interesting meteorological condition may be - it pulls our consciousness away from the 'Middle East' towards a nostalgic view of our own land. True, Rossetti’s In the Bleak Midwinter precedes I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas but if words are supposed to invoke pictures, it's hard to summon up Palestinian pictures with all that white stuff falling.

But, more serious still, is the notion that loving sexual relations are defiling. It is really hard to resist the temptation to use the conventional language of the virgin birth but it must be resisted. It isn't that I don't believe that God, if she wanted to, could bring about a virgin birth through the power of Her Sister the Spirit but that rather undermines the union of the divine and the human in the incarnation and shifts our concept of  the baby from the fundamentally Jewish to the fundamentally Greek, from the genealogical to the gnostic.

But perhaps the most difficult thing of all  is to resist the temptation in forging rhymes to alter natural word order, as in:

So if you are at a loose end after the hectic celebrations, put aside your crossword puzzles and your Sudoku and take a couple of the line  end words I've mentioned and write a new verse with some startling rhymes.