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Midnight at Blackfriars

Midnight at Blackfriars

The city spires are hidden,
It's getting colder fast,
It feels as though we might have
Some snow this month at last.
The wind sweeps keenly through St. Giles(1)
The hour is getting late.
Fleeting forms across the scene,
Are making for the gate.

December is upon us,
The year is wearing thin,
Parishioners from town and gown
Now are gathering in.
Rosy cheeks are shining,
There's a spirit of good will,
We're coming in for Midnight Mass
The Christmas Eve Vigil.

Forgotten is the riot
Of Saint Scholastic's Day,(2)
To celebrate the Savior's birth,
We worship now and pray.
Conjoining with the acolytes
Dressed in cassock's white,
We're caroling together,
Upon the holy night.

A gallant in best evening wear,
Bow tie and cummerbund,
And a high-heeled damsel on his arm,
Is down from Summertown.
A staff nurse from the Radcliffe,(3)
Whose shift was at an end,
Was seated close beside them
Clutching at her friend.

There the widow all in black,
Who cleans the votive stands,
Holds her missal open
With stubby fingered hands.
She blends with the congregants,
Ignoring the celebs,
And is back up for the service
From somewhere in St. Ebbs.(4)

A student in thick sweaters
And ragged scarf of grey
Is seated on the furthest aisle
Hair all in disarray.
Across the nave the prayer chairs,
Range back in their rows,
Filling up with congregants
In coats and gloves and throws.

In from the rear the friars process
With candles all aglow,
Up the side aisle to the chancel,
Caroling as they go.
Above their heads upon the walls
Are stations of the cross,
Reminders set in stark relief
Of this night's final cost.

We see the prior in chasuble
For the apse proceeding,
To celebrate communion
And give the sacred reading.
The greatest story ever told
Unfolds with familiar ring
Filling our hearts with the promise
Of Christ the new born king.

Then with the service over,
We make for the hall below,
Where cocoa and mince pies and sherry
Are served before we go.
Outside the snow is dusting
The chained bikes in the Fair,
Contented now we homeward fade
Through the Christmas air.

 (1)Saint Giles Fair - The convegence of the Banbury and Woodstock Roads in Oxford extending south the Magdalen Street by Martyrs Memorial. The site of a Saint Giles Day fair since 1200 A.D.

(2) The St Scholastica Day riot of 10 February 1355, is one of the more notorious events in the history of Oxford, England (Wikipedia)

(3) Radcliffe Infirmary - The first Oxford Hospital opened in 1770, was situated on the Woodstock Road just north of St. Giles
(4) St Ebbes is a district of central Oxford, England, southwest of Carfax, known for property inhabited by the poorer townsfolk.
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Submitted on July 10, 2014

2:23 min read

Neil McLeod Claim this poet

Born in Oxford, raised in Kenya, past winner of Los Slamgeles Poetry Slam and author of abitingchance.blogspot.comand "The First Thanksgiving".Doctor McLeod is a performing poet who has recited at Highland Games, dinners and Burns Nights for the last 36 years. He is happily married, lives and works in Los Angeles,has three children, and practices as a dentist on Sunset Boulevard:http://www.drneilmcleod.com/He can be contacted by e-mail at drneilmcleod@yahoo.com and will willingly entertain requests to share his work with permission. more…

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