One of my favorite Christmas Carols is, at first glance, an odd choice. It is written in a minor key with the first verse portraying a dreary scene. The haunting melody matches the ethereal poem, then culminates in a surprise ending.
The first verse sets the stage for the coming of the Christ Child.
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.
The second verse describes a God who is too great for either heaven or earth to contain, yet he was born in the bleak midwinter in a lowly stable.
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.
The third verse tells of the angelic presence present at his birth. They may have been worshiping the child, but only Mary expressed her adoration with a kiss.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.
The final verse reveals the one and only gift we, as humans, can offer to our God.
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 poem was written by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). Born in London to Italian parents. Her father, a political refugee, was a poet. Christina soon became the revered poet within her own family at a young age. At 31, she published her first book of poetry. After the death of Elizabeth B. Browning, she became the greatest female poet of her era .
The words have been sung to many tunes with Gustav Holtz’s melody being the favored one. Listen! and feel the awe. Let this magical carol grab your heart!