Friday, December 17, 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti

It snowed here last night. Not very much, mind you, but it was enough to turn most of our local roads quite dangerous. And I know many of my friends are already seeing snow where they live. And so it came to pass that last night was my first singing of "In the Bleak Midwinter" since the turn of the seasons.

Christina Rossetti was an extraordinary poet. One of her poems, "In the Bleak Midwinter", has been set to music at least twice. My favorite setting is the one written by Gustav Holst (who many folks know for his symphonic work, "The Planets"). I must confess that I only have the first and last verses committed to memory, and that's all I sing when I sing this one. Which is often, in these shortest days of the year. The poem is pretty on its own, but the Holst tune is magical.

My favorite lines are these:

Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
snow on snow


and it's because of the repetition. But hey, that's how snow piles up, yes? Snow on snow on snow. *sigh*

Here in its entirety is Rossetti's poem.

In the Bleak Midwinter
by Christina Rossetti

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 incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down 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.



And here's a wonderful recording of the song by Corrinne May, singing in a coffee shop no less:






Kiva - loans that change lives

No comments: