Misrule here takes a very mild form: eating our way through the Christmas cake, having the fire in all day and lounging around in front of it in the bean-bag with book and/or headphones and Molly in full-on lapdog mode, sometimes drinking wine at lunchtime, not caring if I get mud around the bottoms of my trousers when I'm out walking or if Mol slobbers on them in case I was thinking of wearing them for work the next day - the dress code isn't strict but cowmuck and dog saliva might be frowned upon - and generally letting things slide a bit. I always enjoy it and it always makes me uneasy. There's the sense that the end of it, the return to order and normal routine, is hanging over me, that I may not be able to square up to it, something of dread. Tom very cheerfully set to on New Year's Day with the timber and foamed concrete building a partition wall upstairs, and I did in fact pick up my textbooks and start preparing, at least mentally, for next term's teaching, which involves an extra class and change of premises, so a little apprehension, but I stayed in the bean-bag to do it.
The above Adoration of the Magi is by Phillipino Lippi. Generally regarded as good and full of incident, but a little over-busy (apparently they wanted Leonardo for the job, but he got distracted and never finished it, probably too many admin. duties with that long-running Mary Magdelaine fan club he was involved with or something). But one particular incident caught my eye.
As the great and the probably not so good of Renaissance Florentine society, the effete and the curmudgeonly, the precious and the powerful and the ruthless receive their expensively bought honours and recognition from the Virgin and Child, in the top-left hand section, a group of travellers are alighting. Mostly their attention is taken up with awe and astonishment at the star, unseen by us, in the sky above, but one man is oblivious, absorbed in being greeted by his dog. It is a moment of natural, timeless warmth and spontaneity.
In the poem "Musee de beaux arts", the one that begins "About suffering they were never wrong, the old masters", Auden saw something cold and bitter in this indifference to the momentous, the ominous, the tragic and terrible. With the sense of impending doom with the rise of fascism and the coming of war, of suffering on a massive scale, he found little comfort in the knowledge of life going on. Thomas Hardy did though, for all his lugubriousness, " This will go onward the same / Though Dynasties pass ".
So, as the nations are broken, as Icarus falls from the skies, before the massacre of the innocents ( and after, and during), I'm off to walk the dog.
( For links to the poems,http://poetrypages.lemon8.nl/life/musee/museebeauxarts.htm , for the Auden, a lovely page with the Breugel picture also, http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/429.html for the Hardy. I attempted to put links in the text, without success. Think I need some http lessons.)