Day 17: Advent for Mad Sweeney


Coldest now up this tree,
shagged by ice and wind
and haled by high moonlight.
Halcyon, yes, if you’re dead.
Or leaning that way, re-learning
Advent in the bittering slog
of freezing winter nights.

Below and beyond I see
warm lights, chimneys billowing
fire-smoke and children caroling
house to house their Christ.

How I miss those cloistered
enclosures where a man
was everything he said
and a sword’s amen
counted for everything
in the pile of heads.
The mead and the feasting,
the white breasts of the maid,
all festively enveloped in
songs for the King.

Christmastide beckons
to all that’s lost inside:
But not so tonight
for this man of the mound,
exiled by the new God
to a cold aerie’s cross
far from hearth of
a welcoming mind.

Here where the wind
bleeds stars onto branches
and the wolf howls Jesu
I’m wild and keening,
ditch-delved by frost.

My Advent locks its step
with Infurin’s dead host.
Chanting in starlight
the charm of the lost.

Thank you to Brendan for this poem, one of a series of poems exploring the mythology of Mad Sweeney. If you’re wondering: Infurin, is a Celtic otherworld known as the Land Beneath the North. Brendan lives in Florida USA. By day he is an editor and husband, in deep of night he scribes the Otherworld. Brendan is the creative the force behind the earthweal project Poetry of a changing Earth. The grief is real – so is the hope.

6 thoughts on “Day 17: Advent for Mad Sweeney

  1. The opening of this Sweeney poem has me shivering in its aggressive chill, especially the tree ‘shagged by ice and wind / and haled by high moonlight’. I like the swift shift to the warmth of ‘beyond and below’ and Sweeney’s melancholic nostalgia, although the reference to ‘a sword’s amen’ counting for ‘everything in the pile of heads’ is a reminder of historic and biblical violence. I’m imagining Sweeney ‘wild and keening, / ditch-delved by frost’. Shudder.


  2. That second stanza is brilliant, brings the poem and Sweeney’s isolation into focus. Meet the new God, not quite the same as the old God! You’re a master and establishing the weather of a poem, Brendan, whether it’s the Florida heat or the Celtic cold!

    Liked by 1 person

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