One Hundred Years Ago Tonight


A poem by my friend, Bertrand Fay:



My name is John Wiggand

My mates, good lads all, call me Wiggers

Countrymen, my fam’ly for generations

Know the woods and fields of Hertfordshire

My Ma is gone. My Da alive, back home

Yes, and sweet Sarah, ‘less I was born t be a ghost,

She’ll be my missus when this war is done.


I joined up, like most, as soon as we declared

Pro Patria runs deep in me.

I know my gun, the bayonet blade, how cold steel is

So far these thirty days it’s muck and mud

That’s what it is, this bloody trench.


We’ll not be home for Christmas

Though they said this somber night is Christmas Eve

Anno Domini ‘14

Not what you’d call a midnight clear

Just a star or two shining down on No Man’s Land


And I don’t know, I might be hearing things

But across the frosted barrens a low sound comes

Like nothing you’d expect to hear.

A thrum, at first, then growing into a melody

And words, German words, Stille, heilige

Unmistakable, the tune from our side

Lad’s voices lofted on the frigid air

Silent night, holy night

And in my heart, amazement takes the place of fear


In the hush a wee, faint light

Another and another until I lose count

Rising ‘bove the breastwork of the Boches’ dugout opposite

As if suspended in the atmosphere a hearty glow

‘Tis then I see so many candles flick’ring on an evergreen

Tannenbaum, the Christmas tree


It draws us Tommies, man by man

We mount the berm, climb out from the trench

And soon sworn enemies here on the Western Front

Yet each a son away from home

Are gathered in the snowfall, smiling

Absurdly at first, then shaking hands

Clapping shoulders, exchanging what we have to share

Tobacco, oranges, a flask of schnapps


My harmonica, I take it from the pocket of my greatcoat

A German chap who says, in English, that his name is Franz

Is fingering a mandolin

Together we play, not quite in tune

Bach’s Jesu Joy, Bleibit meaine Freude

When we finish Franz says Wiggers, das war gut


Someone has a soccerball, starts a game and in the dark

We are again what we all are


Who ne’ertheless this wondrous night

Own a world where nothing seems wrong

The Great War, just begun

A Christmas truce, heav’nly peace

Midnight to dawn at first light

Strife and sorrow, more to come

But what we had ‘twas not a dream



About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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