Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unknown Bards by John Jeremiah Sullivan

Rarely did James McKune attempt published aesthetic statements of any kind, but when he did he repeated one word. Writing to JVM Palaver in 1960 about Samuel Charters’s then recent book, The Country Blues, McKune bemoaned the fact that Charters had concentrated on those singers who’d sold the most records, such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Brownie McGhee, whose respective oeuvres McKune found mediocre and slick. McKune’s letter sputters in the arcane fury of its narcissism of minor difference, but the word he keeps getting stuck on is great. As in “Jefferson made only one record I can call great”(italics McKune’s). Or, “I know twenty men who collect the Negro country blues. All of us have been interested in knowing who the great [his again] country blues singers are not in who sold best.” And later, “I write for those who want a different basis for evaluating blues singers. This basis in their relative greatness.”

When I saw that letter in Marybeth Hamilton’s book (In Search of the Blues), it brought up the memory of being on the phone with Dean Blackwood, John Fahey’s partner at Revenant Records, and hearing him talk about his early discussions with Fahey over the phantoms project. “John and I always felt like there wasn’t enough of a case being made for these folks’ greatness,” he’d said. “You’ve got to have their stuff together to understand the potency of their work.”

Before dismissing as na├»ve the overheated boosterism of these pronouncements, we might ask whether there’s not a simple technical explanation for the feeling being expressed or left unexpressed in them. I believe that there is and its this:

The narrative of the blues got hijacked by rock ‘n’ roll, which rode a wave of youth consumerism to global domination. Back behind the split, there was something else: a deeper, riper source. Many people who have written about this body of music have noticed it. Robert Palmer called it Deep Blues. We’re talking about strains within strains, sure, but listen to something like Ishman Bracey’s “Woman Woman Blues,” his tattered yet somehow impeccable falsetto when he sings, “She got coal black curly hair.” Songs like that were not made for dancing. Not even for singing along. They were made for listening, for grown-ups. They were chamber compositions. Listen to Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.” It has no words. It’s hummed by a blind preacher incapable of playing an impure note on the guitar.

We have again to go against our training and suspend anthropological thinking here; it doesn’t serve at these strata. The noble ambition not to be the kind of people who unwittingly fetishize and exoticize black or poor white folk poverty has allowed us to remain the type who don’t stop to ask if the serious treatment of certain folk forms as essentially high – or higher – art forms might have originated with the folks themselves.

If there is a shared weakness in these two books (Elijah Wald’s Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson and The Invention of The Blues, and Hamilton’s The White Invention of Black Music), it’s that they’re insufficiently on the catch for this pitfall. “No one in the blues world was calling this art,” says Wald. Is that true? Carl Sandburg was including blues lyrics in his anthologies as early as 1927. More to the point, Ethel Waters, one of the citified ‘blues queens” whose lyrics and melodies had a funny way of showing up in those raw and undiluted country-blues recordings, had already been writing self-consciously modernist blues for a few years by then (for instance, “I can’t sleep for dreaming…,” a line of hers I first heard in Crying Sam Collins and took for one of his beautiful manglings, then was humbled to learn had always been intentionally poetic).

Marybeth Hamilton, in her not unsympathetic autopsy of James McKune’s mania, comes dangerously close to suggesting that McKune was the first person to hear Skip James as we hear him, as a profound artist. But Skip James was the first person to hear Skip James in that way.

The anonymous African American people described in Wald’s book, sitting on the floor of a house in Tennessee and weeping while Robert Johnson sang “Come On in My Kitchen”, they were the first people to hear the country blues that way. White men “rediscovered” the blues, fine. We’re talking about the complications of that at last. Let’s not go crazy and say they invented it, or accidentally credit their “visions” with too much power. That would be counterproductive, a final insult even.

from Pulphead Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Poems by Bertolt Brecht

Of the Friendliness of the World

To this windy world of chill distress
You all came in utter nakedness
Cold you lay and destitute of all
Till a woman wrapped you in a shawl.

No one called you, none bade you approach
And you were not fetched by groom and coach .
Strangers were you in this early land
When a man once took you by the hand.

From this windy world of chill distress
You all part in rot and filthiness (yet),
Almost everyone has loved the world
When on him two clods of earth are hurled.

Counter-song to ‘The Friendliness of the World’

So does that mean we’ve got to rest contented
And say ‘That’s how it is and always must be’
And spurn the brimming glass for what’s been emptied
Because we’ve heard it’s better to go thirsty?

So does that mean we’ve got to sit here shivering
Since uninvited guests are not admitted
And wait while those on top go on considering
What pains and joys we are to be permitted?

Better, we think, would be to rise in anger
And never go without the slightest pleasure
And, warding off those who bring pain and hunger
Fix up the world to live in at our leisure.

This Babylonian Confusion

This Babylonian confusion of words
Results from their being the language
Of men who are going down.
That we no longer understand them
Results from the fact that it is no longer
Of any use to understand them.
What use is it to tell the dead
How one might of lived
Better. Don’t try to persuade
The man with rigor mortis
To perceive the world.

Don’t quarrel
With the man behind whom
The gardeners are already waiting
Be patient rather.

The other day I wanted
To tell you cunningly
The story of a wheat speculator in the city of
Chicago. In the middle of what I was saying
My voice suddenly failed me
For I had
Grown aware all at once what an effort
It would cost me to tell
That story to those not yet born
But who will be born and will live
In ages quite different from ours
And, lucky devils, will simply not be able to grasp
What a wheat speculator is
Of the kind we know.

So I began to explain it to them. And mentally
I heard myself speak for seven years
But I met with
Nothing but a silent shaking of heads from all
My unborn listeners.
Then I knew that I was
Telling them about something
That a man cannot understand.

They said to me: You should have changed
Your houses or else your food
Or yourselves. Tell us, why did you not have
A blueprint, if only
In books perhaps of earlier times –
A blueprint of men, either drawn
Or described, for it seems to us
Your motive was quite base
And also quite easy to change. Almost anyone
Could have seen that it was wrong, inhuman, exceptional.
Was there not some such old and
Simple model you could have gone by in your confusion?

I said: Such models existed
But, you see, they were crisscrossed
Five times over with new marks, illegible
The blueprint altered five times to accord
With our degenerate image, so that
In those reports even our forefathers
Resembled none but ourselves.
At this they lost heart and dismissed me
With the nonchalant regrets
Of happy people.

Still, When the Automobile Manufacturer's Eighth Model

When the manufacturer’s eighth model
Is already reposing on the factory scrapheap (R.I.P.)
Peasant carts from Luther’s day
Stand beneath the mossy roof
Ready to travel.

Still, now the Nineveh is over and done with
Its Ethiopian brothers are surely ready to start.
Still new were wheel and carriage
Built for eternity the wooden shafts.


The Ethiopian stands beneath the mossy roof
But who
Travels in it?

The automobile manufacturer’s eighth model
Reposes on top of the scrap iron
But we
Are traveling in the ninth
Thus we have decided
In ever new vehicles – full of flaws
Instantly destructible
Light, fragile
Innumerable –
Henceforward to travel.

The Gordian Knot

When the man from Macedaemon
Had cut through the knot
With his sword, they called him
Of an evening in Gordium, ‘the slave of
His fame’.

For their knot was
One of the wonders of the world
Masterpiece of a man whose brain
(The most intricate in the world) had been able to leave
No memorial behind except these
Twenty cords, intricately twisted together so that they should
One day be undone by the deftest
Hands in the world – the deftest apart from his
Who had tied the knot. Oh, the man
Whose hand had tied it was not
Without plans to undo it, but alas
The span of his life was only long enough
For one thing, the tying.

A second sufficed
To cut it.

Of him who cut it
Many said this was really
The luckiest stroke of his life
The cheapest, and did the least damage.
The unknown man was under no obligation
To answer with his name
For his work, which was akin
To everything godlike
But the chump who destroyed it
Was obliged as though by a higher command
To proclaim his name and show himself to a continent

If that’s what they said in Gordium, I say
That not everything which is difficult is useful
And an answer less often suffices to rid the world of a question
Than a deed.

I’m Not Saying Anything Against Alexander

Timur, I hear, took the trouble to conquer the earth.
I don’t understand him;
With a bit of hard liquor you can forget the earth.
I’m not saying anything against Alexander
I have seen people
Who are remarkable –
Highly deserving of your admiration
For the fact that they
Were alive at all.
Great men generate too much sweat.
In all this I see just a proof
That they couldn’t stand being on their own
And smoking
And drinking
And the like.
And they must be too mean-spirited
To get contentment from
Sitting by a woman.

Difficulty of Governing

Ministers are always telling the people
How difficult it is to govern. Without the ministers
Corn would grow into the ground, not upward.
Not a lump of coal would leave the mine if
The Chancellor weren’t so clever. Without the Minister of
No girl would ever agree to get pregnant. Without the
Minister of War
There’d never be a war. Indeed, whether the sun would rise
In the morning
Without the Fuhrer’s permission
Is very doubtful, and if it did, it would be
In the wrong place.

It’s just as difficult, so they tell us
To run a factory. Without the owner
The walls would fall in and the machines rust, so they say.
Even if a plough could get made somewhere
It would never reach a field without the
Cunning words the factory owner writes the peasants: who
Could otherwise tell them that ploughs exist? And what
Would become of an estate without the landlord? Surely
They’d be sowing rye where they had set the potatoes.

If governing were easy
There’d be no need for such inspired minds as the Fuhrer’s.
If the worker knew how to run his machine and
The peasant could tell his field from a pastryboard
There’d be no need of factory owner or landlord.
It’s only because they are all so stupid
That a few are needed who are so clever.

Or could it be that
Governing is so difficult only
Because swindling and exploitation take some learning?

The Buddha’s Parable of the Burning House

Gautama the Buddha taught
The doctrine of greed’s wheel to which we are bound, and
That we should shed all craving and thus
Undesiring enter the nothingness that he called Nirvana.
Then one day his pupils asked him:
What is it like, this nothingness, Master? Every one of us
Shed all craving, as you advise, but tell us
Whether this nothingness which then we shall enter
Is perhaps like being at one with all creation
When you lie in the water, your body weightless, at noon
Unthinking almost, lazily lie in the water, or drowse
Hardly knowing now that you straighten the blanket
Going down fast – whether this nothingness, then
Is a happy one of this kind, a pleasant nothingness, or
Whether this nothing of yours is mere nothing, cold, senseless
And void.

Long Buddha silent, then said nonchalantly:
There is no answer to your question.
But in the evening, when they had gone
The Buddha still sat under the bread-fruit tree, and to the
To those who had not asked, addressed this parable:

Lately I saw a house. It was burning. The flame
Licked at its roof. I went up close and observed
That there were people still inside. I opened the door and
Out to them that the roof was ablaze, so exhorting them
To leave at once. But those people
Seemed in no hurry. One of them
When the heat was already scorching his eyebrows
Asked me what it was like outside, whether it wasn’t raining
Whether the wind wasn’t blowing perhaps, whether there
Another house for them, and more of this kind. Without answering
I went out again. These people here, I thought
Need to burn to death before they stop asking questions.

Truly, friends
Unless a man feels the ground so hot underfoot that he’d
Exchange it for any other, sooner than stay, to him
I have nothing to say. Thus Gautama the Buddha.
But we too, no longer concerned with the art of submission
Rather with that of not submitting, and putting forward
Various proposals of an earthly nature, and beseeching men
to shake off
Their human tormentors, we too believe that to those
Who in face of the approaching bomber squadrons of Capital
Go on asking too long
How we propose to do this, and how we envisage that
And what will become of their savings and Sunday trousers
After the revolution
We have nothing much to say.

New Ages

A new age does not begin all of a sudden.
My grandfather was already living in the new age
My grandson will probably still be living in the old one.

The new meat is eaten with the old forks.

It was not the first cars
Nor the tanks
It was not the airplanes over the roofs
Nor the bombers.

From the new transmitters came the old stupidities.
Wisdom was passed on from mouth to mouth.

War Has Been Given A Bad Name

I am told that the best people have begun saying
How, from a moral point of view, the Second World War
Fell below the standard of the First. The Wehrmacht
Allegedly deplores the methods by which the SS effected
The extermination of certain peoples. The Ruhr industrialists
Are said to regret the bloody manhunts
Which filled their mines and factories with slave workers. The
So I heard, condemn industry’s demand for slave workers
Likewise their unfair treatment. Even the bishops
Dissociate themselves from this way of waging war; in short
The feeling
Prevails in every quarter that the Nazis did the Fatherland
A lamentably bad turn, and that war
While in itself natural and necessary, has, thanks to the
Unduly uninhibited and positively inhuman
Way in which it was conducted on this occasion, been
Discredited for some time to come.

On Hearing A Mighty Statesman Has Fallen Ill

If the indispensable man frowns
Two empires quake.

If the indispensable man dies
The world looks around like a mother without milk for her
If the indispensable man were to come back a week after his
In the entire country there wouldn’t be a job for him as a

On The Death of A Criminal

He, I hear, has taken his last trip.
Once he’d cooled they laid him on the floor
Of that ‘little cellar without steps’
Then things were no better than before:
That is, one of them has done the trip
Leaving us to deal with several more.

He, I hear, need not concern us further
That’s the finish of his little game
He’s no longer there to plot our murder
But alas the picture’s still the same.
That is, one need not concern us further.
Leaving several more whom I could name.

Song of The Ruined Innocent Folding Linen

What my mother told me
Cannot be true, I’m sure.
She said: when once your sullied
You’ll never again be pure.
That doesn’t applied to linen
And it doesn’t apply to me.
Just dip it in the river
And its clean instantly.

At eleven I was sinful
As any army bride.
In fact at only fourteen
My flesh I mortified.
The linen was greying already
I dipped it in the stream.
In the basket it lies chastely
Just like a maiden’s dream.

Before my first man knew me
I had already fallen.
I stank to heaven, truly
A scarlet Babylon.
Swirled in a gentle curve
The linen in the river
Feels at the touch of the wave:
I’m growing slowly whiter.

For when my first man embraced me
And I embraced him
I felt the wicked urges fly
From my breast and from my womb.
That’s how it is with linen
And it’s how it is with me
The waters rush past swiftly
And all the dirty cries: see!

But when the others came
That was a dismal spring.
They called me wicked names
And I became a wicked thing.
No woman can restore herself
By storing herself away.
If linen lies long on the shelf
On the shelf it will go grey.

Once more there came another
As another year began.
When everything was other, I saw
I was another woman.
Dip it in the river and shake it!
There’s sun and bleach and air!
Use it and let them take it:
It will be fresh as before!

I know: much more can happen
Till there’s nothing to come at last.
It’s only when it’s never been used
That linen has gone to waste.
And once it is brittle
No river can wash it pure.
It will be rinsed away in tatters.
That day will come for sure.


Emerge from the darkness and go
Before us a while
Friendly one, with the light step
Of total certainty, a terror
To the wielders of terror.

You turn your face away. I know
How much you dreaded death, and yet
Even more you dreaded
Life without dignity.

And you would not let the mighty
Get away with it, nor would you
Compromise with the confusers, or ever
Forget dishonor. And over their atrocities
There grew no grass.

Bertolt Brecht; Poems 1913 – 1956; edited by John Willet and Ralph Manheim with the cooperation of Erich Fried; Theatre Arts Books, Routledge, N.Y. 1976, 1987 revised edition.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Accidental Death of John F. Kennedy

Howard Donahue was a Baltimore ballistics expert who became involved in the JFK investigation when he was called by CBS in the spring of 1967. CBS had constructed a mockup of Dealey Plaza, complete with a little track which pulled a moving target repeatedly through the “Plaza” at 11 miles per hour. CBS was trying to see whether they could find anybody who could hit the target three times in 5.6 seconds. Donahue fired three shots into a three inch circles in 5.2 seconds – and became fascinated with the weapons-and-ballistics aspects of the assassination.

Donahue’s theory, developed over the following twenty years, is that Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact fire two shots at the President that warm November afternoon, with or without the assistance of a vast array of unknown conspirators. He missed with the first shot, although a fragment ricocheted up and hit the President in the neck. His second shot hit Kennedy and Governor John Connally, and his weapon jammed when he attempted a third shot. Unfortunately, a Secret Service man, George Hickey, grabbed a weapon and jumped when he heard the first shot. Hickey’s weapon accidentally fired, and that bullet, from Hickey’s gun, mortally wounded the President.

On first hearing this theory, almost no one believes it could be right. It sounds like just another helium balloon by someone who watched too many Mission: Impossible re-runs as a child. But I have read Donahue’s book Mortal Error carefully, and I have to tell you, if there is a flaw in his argument, I don’t see it.

Donahue is a ballistics expert who has testified in many criminal cases in that role. His ballistics argument include:

1.) The trajectory of the fatal bullet, plotted very carefully based on the entrance and “exit” wounds and the position of Kennedy’s head at the moment, traces a line behind Kennedy, and directly back to the Secret Service care which was following at a distance of about five feet.

2.) The bullet which hit Kennedy in the head disintegrated after impact, which a bullet fired from Oswald’s rifle would not have done, but a bullet fired from an AR-15, carried by Hinkey, would have. “The Carcano round (Oswald’s round) simply did not have the velocity – either rotational, from the rifling of the barrel – or linear, from the gunpowder charge in the skull – to completely shred the thick metal jacket and disintegrate the lead inside upon impact… the startling fact was that the bullet that hit Kennedy’s head ha not behaved like a full metal jacket at all.”

3.) A Carcano round, fired at the distance between Kennedy and Oswald at the moment of the fatal shot (believed to be 261 feet), could not have transmitted as much energy as the fatal round obviously did,.

4.) A .223 bullet, as fired from an AR-15 (Hickey’s gun), creates a little ‘lead snowstorm” in its target, as some of the lead actually melts on impact, then cools again in the tissue. A Carcano round has no similar effect. According to Donahue, exactly such an effect was described to him by Dr. Russell Fisher, a member of the pathologists panel which reviewed the autopsy results in 1968. (The President’s brain disappeared from the national archives shortly after that, making it impossible to confirm this allegation.

5.) The bullet fired by an AR-15 is 5.56 millimeters in diameter. A Carcano round is 6.5 millimeters. The entrance wound in the back of the President’s head was only six millimeters wide – making it seemingly impossible to put a 6.5 millimeter round through the hole.

Donahue’s material is stupefyingly dense but the situation is not as complicated as the language in which it musty be stated. If you can wade through the math until you get an intuitive feel for what the argument is about, you can figure things out. Let’s start with the fact that the fatal shot “entered the rear of the President’s skull and exploded out the right side of his head.” But Oswald was positioned to the right rear of Kennedy, behind him and to the right. That should mean that a shot from Oswald should have exited the left side of Kennedy’s head. Put the book down, take your fingers and point; you’ll see what I mean.

Not only that, but Oswald was way up in the air. The Warren Commission reported that the fatal shot was fired at a downward angle of 16 degrees. But, also according to the Warren report, the fatal bullet, as it exited, blew a hole in Kennedy’s skull; about two inches from the top of his head- above the hairline. A descending bullet should have created and exit wound through Kennedy’s face, about the height of his nose- not through his skull.

The Warren report defenders avoid this quandary by supposing that Kennedy’s head, at the moment of impact, is turned sharply to the left (25 degrees) and tilted sharply forward (40 degrees). Kennedy’s head was turned to the left and tilted forward at the moment of impact- but not nearly enough to explain the anomalous location of the exit wound…On the other hand, the exit wound is exactly where it should be if the fatal bullet was in fact fired from Agent Hickey’s weapon.

Let us deal with the circumstantial observations of the critical seconds:

1) Secret Service agent George Hickey carried an AR-15, which is the civilian version of the M-16, the rifle used by U.S. military ground troops in the Vietnam era. Numerous eyewitness reports state that Hickey had grabbed this weapon and was waving it around within seconds of the first shot.

2) One eyewitness, S.M. Holland, told the Warren Commission interviewer that “just about the same time the President was shot the second time, he (Hickey) jumped up in the seat and was standing up…now I actually thought when they started up, I actually though he was shot, too, because he fell backwards just like he was shot, but it jerked him down when they started off.” Holland also observed that agent Hickey had his weapon in his hands at the moment.

3) Special agent Winston Lawson was in the first car of the motorcade, the car ahead of Kennedy’s on that day. His job was to look steadily backward at the President. Maintaining constant visual contact. In his statement written December 1, 1963, agent Wilson wrote that:
“As the Lead Car was passing under this bridge I heard the first loud, sharp report and in more rapid succession two more sounds like gunfire. I could see persons to the left of the motorcade vehicles running away. I noticed agent Hickey standing in the follow-up car with the automatic weapon and first thought he had fired at someone.”

4) Secret Service Agent Glenn Bennett, seated next top Hickey in the follow-up car, says that when the second shot hit Kennedy he yelled “He’s hit” and reached for the A-15 on the floor of the vehicle- only to realize agent Hickey already had it. Secret Service Agent Emory Roberts, who was in charge of the agents in the follow-up car, reported that just after the shooting he turned and saw Hickey with the rifle, and said “Be careful with that.”

5) While the sound reports from the scene are confusing, many ear-witnesses that that one or more shots had originated from near the President. Austin Miller, watching from the overpass, thought that the shots had come “
from right there in the car.” Royce Skelton, also watching from the overpass, said that he thought the shots came “from around the President’s car.” Mary Elizabeth Woodward, standing just in front of the grassy knoll, described the third shot as “
a horrible ear-shattering noise.”

6) Several individuals who were part of the resident’s motorcade reported smelling gunpowder. Mrs. Earle Cabell, wife of the mayor of Dallas, was riding in an open convertible, four cars behind the death car. She saw the barrel of the rifle projecting through the open window, and immediately after that reported smelling gunpowder. Other people riding in the motorcade also reported the smell of gunpowder, including Tom Dillard, a journalist who was riding in an open car about a block behind the President, and Senator Ralph Yarborough, who was in the care immediately behind Agent Hickey’s

If in fact the only shots fired that afternoon were from Oswald’s rifle, sic stories in the air and inside a building, I have a very difficult time understanding why numerous eyewitnesses would smell gunpowder at ground level and in the path of the presidential limousine.

From there on, what we have in support of the Donahue thesis is a series of after-the-fact observations, culled by Donahue from dozens of Kennedy books.

1) Jim Bishop, in The Day Kennedy Was Shot, reported that Secret Service agent Clint Hill phoned the White House from the hospital. “There’s been an accident,” he reported, apparently overheard by the reporter.

2) According to LBJ: The Way He Was by Frank Cormier, Lyndon Johnson hated to have the Secret Service agents tailgating him, and once, on a hunting trip, threatened to shoot out their tires if they didn’t keep a safe distance. Another time, Johnson told Cormier that “If I ever get killed, it won’t be because of an assassin. It’ll be some Secret Service agent who trips himself up and his gun goes off. They’re worse than trigger-happy Texas sheriffs.”

Donahue’s theory is that nobody intended to kill the President, other than Oswald; it was an accident. It was an accident which happened to occur in such a manner that it was very unclear, to the persons on the scene, what had happened or what was happening. Once this terrible accident had occurred, very few people would have to have knowledge of what was going on. It is quite possible that Agent Hickey himself did not realize what had happened.

And those few people who did, faced with a fait accompli, have a powerful incentive to keep quiet about it. Look at what happens if they talk:

1). Agent Hickey’s life is destroyed

2). All of the agents involved are professionally destroyed.

3).The Secret Service, a government agency with an annual budget of many millions of dollars, is seriously compromised.

There have been other incidents of men being accidentally killed by their bodyguards- indeed, a book argues that this is what happened to the Kingfish, Huey Long. Ross Perot argued during the 1992 presidential campaign that the Secret Service was a vast waste of money, that it was used for political purposes, that it was used to disguise perquisites of office, and that it should be disbanded. There is much truth to this argument; certainly no journalist close to the President would deny that the Secret Service is routinely use to enable the President to “stage” events.

If, in addition to these abuses, it became known that the Secret Service had accidentally shot President Kennedy, do you think the public would still be willing to shell out millions for this “protection”? I’m not an investigative reporter; I’m just a guy who reads a lot of crime books. To me, Mortal Error remains the most persuasive account of the tragedy in Dallas.

Popular Crime; Reflections on the Celebration of Violence by Bill James; Scribner. 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Good Night by Bertolt Brecht

The stable they’d found in spite of all
Was warm, with moss lining the wall
And in chalk was written on the door
That this one was occupied and paid for.
So despite all the night was good
And the hay proved warmer than they thought it would.
Ox and ass were there to see
That everything was as it should be.
Their rack made a table, none too wide
And an ostler brought the couple a fish on the side.
And the fish was first rate, and no one went short
And Mary teased her husband for being so distraught.
For that evening the wind, too, suddenly fell
And became less cold than usual as well.
By night time it was very nearly warm
And the stable was snug and the child full of charm.
Really they could hardly have asked for more
When the Three Kings in person turned up at the door
Mary and Joseph were pleased for sure.