As It Happens

Carol about refugee plight new to King's College famed Christmas Eve service

This year, a new carol is being added to King's College Cambridge's traditional Nine Lessons and Carols service. It's based on a poem by George Szirtes, and is about the plight of refugees attempting to enter Europe.
(George Szirtes (Twitter) / Getty Images )

It's a Christmas tradition for radio listeners around the world: the annual broadcast of nine lessons and carols sung from King's College chapel in Cambridge, England. 

This year, a new carol has been written and composed for the service. It's called The Flight, and it was written by Hungarian-born poet George Szirtes. He was inspired by the plight of refugees trying to make their way to Europe.

Szirtes tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann it's a perfect fit with the Christmas story told in traditional carols.

He says, "Asleep in a manger, no crib for a bed -- that rings a bell doesn't it? Setting out on a donkey...they don't find a welcome. So much of it rings a bell."

Listen to the choir rehearsing part of the new carol (tape courtesy of the BBC World Update):

The Flight, By George Szirtes

The child on the dirtpath
finds the highway blocked
The dogs at the entrance
snarl that doors are locked
The great god of kindness
has his kindness mocked

May those who travel light
Find shelter on the flight
May Bethlehem
Give rest to them.

The sea is a graveyard
the beach is dry bones
the child at the station
is pelted with stones
the cop stands impassive
the ambulance drones

We sleep then awaken
we rest on the way
our sleep might be troubled
but hope is our day
we move on for ever
like children astray

We move on for ever
our feet leave no mark
you won't hear our voices
once we're in the dark
but here is our fire
this child is our spark.


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