Like a Child

When Tim Brown asked me to write a short piece for the 2002 Advent Carol Service in Clare he suggested a number of possible texts.  My eye immediately lighted on “Advent Calendar” by Rowan Williams, and by fortunate chance this happened to be on the very day that it was announced that he was to become Archbishop of Canterbury; it was doubly appropriate as Dr. Williams had been a former Dean of the College.  It is a poem of rich, but stark imagery reflecting his passionate humanity and real concern for the natural world, and they are wonderfully vivid words for musical setting.  I have tried to respond with music that balances astringency with richness, angularity with beauty of line, and anguish with a sense of the calm message of hope promised by the coming of Christ.

He will come like last leaf’s fall.

One night when the November wind

has flayed the trees to bone, and earth

wakes choking on the mould,

the soft shroud’s folding.


He will come like frost.

One morning when the shrinking earth

opens on mist, to find itself

arrested in the net

of alien, sword-set beauty.


He will come like dark.

One evening when the bursting red

December sun draws up the sheet

and penny-masks its eye to yield

the star-snowed fields of sky.


He will come, will come,

will come like crying in the night,

like blood, like breaking,

as the earth writhes to toss him free.

He will come like child.


© Christopher Brown 2002