U. A. Fanthorpe was in the habit of writing a Christmas poem every year.I’ve already written about “The Sheepdog“, which gives you a close-up, dog’s eye view of the Nativity.BC-AD takes a broader view, placing it in context with everything that has gone before, and everything which will follow it.It’s a poem about the structure of time.


This was the moment when Before

Turned into After, and the future’s

Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing

Happened. Only dull peace

Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans

Could find nothing better to do

Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment

When a few farm workers and three

Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight

Into the kingdom of heaven.

She is writing about one moment here – the tipping point between “then” and “now.” And this moment comes at a time when “dull peace/ sprawled boringly over the earth.” The Romans have time to count the population of their empire;everyone else is busy with their own affairs.

The Lamb of God does not come with trumpets and fireworks, his birth is witnessed only by ” a few farm labourers and ” three members of an obscure Persian sect.”

It is a secret birth coming at one brief instant, like the pause between breathing in and breathing out.


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