Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
A breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him? Give my heart.

This carol has been on my mind for the past two days. We sang it last December in our Christmas concert, and its quiet, haunting melody has stayed with me. The words were written by Christina Rossetti, one of my favourite poets, in 1872 as a response to a Scribner's Magazine request for a Christmas poem. They were later set to the tune "Cranham" by Gustav Holst, whose "First Suite in E Flat" was one of my favourite pieces from my high school band days. (We played it in London when we went for the millenium, and there are some beautiful, soaring flute parts.) So even its origins have special meaning for me.

It is bleak midwinter today in Abilene - and about to get bleaker, when a frosty cold front blows through tonight. But it's also coming on Christmas - December starts Friday, Advent begins Sunday, and the Christmas shopping season has already begun. I love, love, love popular Christmas music - both church songs and fun holiday ditties like Rudolph and Frosty and "Winter Wonderland." But there are also a few obscure songs that have worked their way into my heart over the years, and this is one of them. You can hear an instrumental recording on its Cyberhymnal page here. Enjoy, and merry pre-Christmas.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote a poem just like that yesterday about Winter!!! haha!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Beverly said...

Katie..its beautiful..thanks for sharing that!

1:25 PM  

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