“The Flight” by Richard Causton and George Szirtes

Christmas 2C, Flight to Egypt, Matthew 2:13-23, Richard Causton, George Szirtes, King's College

One option for this coming Sunday’s gospel is the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23). I can no longer hear this story without also hearing the words of poet George Szirtes and the music of Richard Causton.

Richard Causton is the composer of the 2015 commissioned Christmas Carol, “The Flight,” performed by King’s College during the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. George Szirtes is the poet who wrote the words of the carol. Mr. Szirtes was born in Budapest, Hungary, and came to England as a refugee at the age of eight.

Mr Causton wrote the following about how this carol came to be:

Earlier this year I spent a great deal of time in libraries looking for a suitable text for my new carol and although I unearthed many old and very beautiful poems about the Nativity, I struggled to find one that I really wanted to set to music. I had a growing sense that at this precise moment it is perverse to be writing a piece about a child born in poverty, away from home and forced to flee with his parents, without in any way paying reference to the appalling refugee crisis that is unfolding.

I phoned my friend, the poet George Szirtes to ask if he might be prepared to write me a poem which could encompass some of these ideas. By complete coincidence, the very day I phoned he was in Hungary, at [the] Budapest railway station talking to the refugees who were stuck there while trying to leave the country. Within days, George sent me a poem that is at once beautiful, eloquent and hard-hitting.

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.


  1. The Child, indeed, the spark. The child (everywhere) is the spark. I grieve almost constantly the plight of “the child”; yet, according to the song you have shared, the Child gives us/me hope.


  2. Flee because if you don’t you will be destroyed. today we see Syrians fleeing not because of the urging of angels but because of the destruction reigning around them. And there are other reasons for people fleeing: unemployment, a desire for a second chance, etc. But through all this one finds the presence of God: love, kindness, miracles, hope, all of which gives one a reason to live. And to rejoice.
    “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”


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