“For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” – so that is that” by W.H. Auden

For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio – written during the dark times of World War II is a Christmas poem for adults.

Christmas blessings to you and yours

Christmas blessings to you and yours

Image from: http://montazne-hise-on.net/images/bozicna-novoletna-jelka-21.jpg

Last portion of For the Time Being – by W.H. Auden
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.


He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

— W. H. Auden

From: http://www.cs.utsa.edu/~wagner/church/auden/

W.H. Auden 1907-1973

W.H. Auden       1907-1973

“English poet, playwright, critic, and librettist W(ystan) H(ugh) Auden exerted a major influence on the poetry of the twentieth century.”

image from: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/w-h-auden

Many blessings to all. Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays wherever you are. Aloha, Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

11 responses to ““For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” – so that is that” by W.H. Auden”

  1. Rosita says :

    Happy Christmas, Renée, Barry and all of yours! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🎅🏼 I have heard that NK (North Korea) is the poorest communist nation, even more than Cuba. Communism is nothing more than an flawed utopia of equality in which governments installes dictatorships hidden of equality instead of incentive true equality, who have to go to from people, not from government. Dictatorships are crimes against Humanity, because it blocks freedom of expression and usually are very cruel. Sad. But NK have a cute side, the KJs (Korean Jindo), who’re a dog breed that looks like a shorthaired KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog) and can be of various colors, as opposite as KBDs, that only can be white, although other colors can be found. Weh, stopping to talk about dogs and NK, I’ll talk you about the true essence of Christmas. It isn’t only about gifts or being a good or bad person. It’s about family and union with friends and humbleness. It’s sad that a true original Christian commemoration became very commercial and capitalist. True essence of Christmas is union with family and friends, not all those gifts. Christmas don’t depend of material things, but yes the true essence of all Christian commemorations are about familiar reunion and helping the near, independently of specie, because is that what Jesus would do. And He would like that we do also 😉 Christmas became much more materialist and lost its humble essence, no? What do you think about it?

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: I think you’re right about Communist countries. The idea of equality and sharing is good, but humans don’t seem to be able to do that on a big scale – as we see in practice where they have tried. North Korea is an extreme example. China, now, seems to me in many ways more Capitalistic than the U.S.; the Chinese love luxury goods in ways I don’t see on Maui, for instance. However, Socialism seems to me to work well – as in Sweden. The taxes are high, but there isn’t the poverty we find here in the U.S. for instance.

      Thanks for the information and links to the Korean Jindo and the Kintamani Bali dogs. They are beautiful!!!

      As for Christmas, in many ways it is too commercial with lots of pressure to give the right gifts – and many people feel lonely because they don’t have an “ideal” family and many go (deeper) into debt. But it’s also a time of Christmas carols and people making a point of being loving and reaching out to others. On Maui, Barry and I usually have a potluck celebration on the beach for Christmas Day. We invite family and friends and tell them to bring their friends and family. It’s really fun and a great way to spend the day. The food is terrific too. So I think we can get sucked into the materialistic Christmas or we can make choices that reflect what Jesus would do. Being grateful — and family and reaching out to help others are all part of the Christmas season. We could act in those loving ways all year.

      Merry Christmas to you, Rosita – and to your family, friends, and your dogs. Many blessings – may peace and joy fill your life. Aloha, Renée

      • Rosita says :

        Thank you, my dear! ☺️ I’m planning to found an animal shelter next year. It would be a typical Caribbean house, with some cages for animals who’re waiting a new home, a vet office, including surgery center, and, plus, a space for MY OWN ANIMALS, it’ll accept ALL KINDS OF ANIMALS and would be STRICTLY no-kill, as opposite as some animal shelters, because I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of putting healthy animals to sleep only because the shelter is overpopulated. I prefer find a home to all of them than killing them. I’m strictly against the idea of killing any sentient creature, so, my shelter will respect the life of all sentient creatures in all hipothesis 😉 and the shelter will attend animals of all social classes, without looking richness or poverty. what do you think about my idea?

      • reneeriley says :

        Merry Christmas, Rosita: I think your idea is fabulous! How will you fund it? Will you be able to get grants or other money to be able to take care of your animals? I think that will be a big challenge. Good fortune for your endeavor. . You are sure to have many challenges, but your cause is wonderful. And no kill is, of course, the best. Let me know what happens. Aloha, Renée

  2. Rosita says :

    Thank you, my dear! You have a special place on my heart ❤️ And I’m only starting with my plans, I’m still into the phase “collect money to found my animal shelter”. Plus: it would be on a Caribbean style, because, if I can’t move me to Caribbean, I can bring a piece of Caribbean to me 😉 it probably will take a good while, perhaps some years, but when I finally found it, I’ll found a website about it. And if you want, you can sponsor an animal online. When I found it, I’ll advise yours here. Wait to see 🙂

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: I would be happy to sponsor an animal at your animal shelter. So let me know as your plans progress. Big plans are often worth all the effort. Good fortune to you. Aloha, Renée

      • Rosita says :

        Yes, my dear, you’re correct. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, a day to REnew our hopes and dreams, and, most of all, a day to be glad to be alive and enjoying, with with family and friends. I desire, most of all, that 2016 would be the year that World’s Peace would be proclaimed, as all humanity can live in peace and harmony for now as well. I also hope that all of us have good health and be luck enough to enjoy the good things of the year and renew the peace and hope in humanity. Those are my hopes and desires for 2016 😉 and what about you?

      • reneeriley says :

        Happy New Year, Rosita: Wishing everyone peace and happiness for 2016 – and beyond. Aloha

  3. Rosita says :

    If you’re interested in a kintamani puppy, I found a kennel, BalendinTov Kintamani Kennel, in Bandung, and there’s their email: balendintov@yahoo.com 😉 I sincerely don’t know what would be the bureaucracy to ship the puppy to Hawaii, who’s a rabies-free state, and have rigid laws toward pets from no-rabies free countries 😦 but don’t cost nothing to try 🙂 I hope that it would be utile to yours

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: Thanks for the information, but we travel too much to get a puppy. I worry about my cat that I left at home; a dog is much more responsibility. Barry and I are in Panama City, Panama. We went to the Panama Canal today – fabulous engineering and great to see. We are off to David tomorrow. Where was it that you recommended that we see in Panama? Hope all is well with your family and dogs. Are you thinking of getting another Kintamani? Aloha, Renée

      • Rosita says :

        Hahaha perhaps I would ADOPT a purebred Kintamani or even a Kintamani mix from the local animal shelter here on my city 😉 yes, I know some persons that adopted purebred Kintamanis from dog shelters. I probably will adopt an adult one, because they suffer a lot on the shelter and they’re pretty hard to become adopted, if compared with all those cute puppies, so, I would save a life, because a life is a life, independently of specie, age, color, sex, nationality or size! And enjoy your travel to Panama! Please, don’t forget to visit San Blas archipelago, who’s a paradise on the earth, from Guna Yala indigenous tribe. I never visited Panama, unfortunately, but I’m pretty sure that you’d like visiting this marvelous country 🙂 and don’t forget to visit San Blas! 😉

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