It is late on Christmas Eve and a weak and pallid sun struggles to shine in a bleak sky. There is not a cloud to be seen but it is grey all over rather than blue all over save in the west where there is a vaguely yellow hue…
Suddenly, a strident crackling bursts from some green branches as they start to blaze. Then comes the smoke, white as ermine, and finally the flame that purifies the smoke and fills the air with fleeting tongues which look as if they are licking at it.
Oh the flame in the wind! Spirits in rose, in yellow, in purple, in blue vanish I know not where, breaking into a secret heaven below; and they leave a burning in the cold!
A field in December that is now almost warm! A winter that is showing affection! A Christmas Eve for those who are happy!
The nearby wild roses thaw out. The landscape trembles and purifies itself through the heated air as though it were made of quicksilver.
And the children of the caretaker who have no crib come and gather around the fire, impoverished and woebegone, to warm their freezing hands and to toss acorns and chestnuts on the coals so that they might explode with a single crack.
Later on they cheer up and jump over the fire that the night is making red and they sing:
…Travel on, Mary….
Travel on, Joseph…
I bring Platero to them and I give him to them so that they may play with him.
This is a translation from the classic book Platero y Yo ('Platero and I') by the Spanish writer, Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881 – 1958), who was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1956.
This improbable book about a writer and his donkey, Platero, on their daily round in a village in Andalusia before the First World War has long been regarded as a classic of world literature. It was first published on Christmas Day, 1914... español
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