Elizabeth Bowen on Christmas


I did not know how I felt: I was in turmoil. Through the tight-closed window I sent a glance up the crowded face of our town. Then, all was well. Yes, above me still burned the sentinel candles! Steadily, tier on tier, gleamed those points of light; each flame on its coloured wax stem, a symbolic heart shape. Each stood for a home! It was still Christmas, going with me, encircling me. Nothing *was* left behind.
Elizabeth Bowen – From ‘Candles In The Window’ 1958
Peals of bells being rung from an ancient steeple mingled with the throbbing inside her head; she was dazzled by the many lights of small shops – windows a-shimmer with tinsel, slung with paper chains, cast their reflections on to the damp pavements, till she felt herself lost in a mirror maze. Good-humoured townsfolk, gathering late to talk, formed an obstruction at every corner…
Elizabeth Bowen – from ‘Christmas Games’ (1954?)


Millie at once saw, from the light on their bedroom ceiling, that snow must have fallen during the night. As though someone had spoken, she woke from a deep, plausible dream to the unreality of this unknown spare room silently glared into by the snow. The satin pattern of the blue wallpaper glimmered, and the white door through to the dressingroom, the white mantlepiece seemed to be carved out of something solidly bright.
Elizabeth Bowen – from ‘Home for Christmas’ (mid 1950s)


The ghost hesitated in the familiar corridor. Her visibleness, even on Christmas Eve, was not under her own control; and now she had fallen in love again her dependence upon it began to dissolve in patches. This was a concentration of every feeling of the woman prepared to sail downstairs en grande tenue. Flamboyance and agitation were both present. But between these, because of her years of death, there cut an extreme anxiety: it was not merely a matter of, how was she? but of, was she – tonight – at all? Death had left her to be her own mirror; for into no other was she able to see.  
Elizabeth Bowen – From ‘Green Holly’ 1944

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