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In the last ditch, on the last straw | 22-Dec-10

In the last ditch, on the last straw

This was in a poem about the Nativity that was broadcast on BBC R4 many years ago, possibly on Poetry Please, saying that God somes as saviour at the moment when you have given up on expecting.

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This is from The Journey of the Magi by W. R. Rodgers
Caroline Heal

'Journey of the Magi'

It was a dark January night, cold and snowing
When the three kings started out
On their annual journey: and what on earth
They were doing ? and such a time to be going!
And, honestly, what was it all about
Not one of them knew. But they wanted a birth,
A new lift, as we all do. Was the journey wise? ?
Yes, or No? Well, that was anybody?s guess
As it still is: a risk. A different address
May only land you in a different kind of a mess.
Put it no higher than that. But still, there was the Star
Throbbing in front like like a bell, bobbing them on from afar,
Regardless of hail, rain, or snow, or glitter or glar.
The three kings marched away into the west,
To one dark enterprise they were addressed.
The three Kings hitched their wagon to the Star
And gave the Star its head. Now near, now far,
Now in, now out, now to and fro it led;
Never straight. Journeys are always curly,
Like comets or like hairpins they are meant
To crown or to lead up to some event.
Herod did all he could to prevent
Their coming. This journey had its hazards.
He broke the poles, and he cut the wires,
He stole their pump and he deflated their tyres,
And he turned their messengers into liars;
But in vain.
He muffled the knocker, disconnected the bell,
Turned up his radio till it howled like hell,
Changed his name and address as well;
But in vain.

December now; the three kings stood
Benighted in the deepest wood,
The wits?end of their hardihood.
No longer kings, but helpless now
They threw away their golden bough;
They stamped upon their golden crowns
And damned the country, damned the towns.
They?d lost the Star, their only link
And anchor-light. O not a blink
No hope, no help in earth or sky!
? They gave a last despairing cry.
Then suddenly all raised a shout
For overhead the Star flared out
Just like a fan: and there they saw
In the last ditch, on the last straw,
In front of them a heavenly child.
See! it looked up at them and smiled.
It was the child within themselves
For which they?d sought, for which Age delves
? Now Age and Innocence can meet,
Now, now the circle?s complete,
The journey?s done. Lord, Lord, how sweet!

©: W.R.Rodgers(1909 ? 1969). He was born in Belfast. After some years as a Presbyterian minister he went to London in 1945 to begin a distinguished career as a broadcaster with the BBC.

C Carey

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