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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

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2010 06:45 am (UTC)
Here we have less snow than usual at this time of year, and it is still fluffy and beautiful, not yet bleak. What a gorgeous recording. I am off to purchase a Corrinne May CD. Thank you! (Those three lines are my favorite too.) A.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
No way! Thanks, Melodye!
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
It's so cold here that we kept our dusting - it looks like someone started to sprinkle powdered sugar on a cake but left off before it was actually coated. But baby, it's cold outside!
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:03 am (UTC)
tanita says:
Oh, lovely, lovely. This and The Angel Gabriel are two of my favorite reeeeallly old carols/poems.
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
I love Sting's version of Gabriel's Message, which is the alternate title for The Angel Gabriel. The other carol I really love is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, for which I know THREE settings - I like this setting best, although this isn't my favorite performance of it.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome.
Dec. 17th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
Have you heard Shawn Colvin's version? It's loverly.
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
I have that recording, and it IS lovely.
Dec. 17th, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
I love that one, too.
Dec. 18th, 2010 01:46 am (UTC)
It's a pretty version. Only I couldn't find it on YouTube when I looked for it last (2 years ago), so I went with Corrinne May instead.
Dec. 17th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
James Taylor does a nice version as well.
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
I like the JT, Shawn Colvin and Dan Fogelberg, too.
Dec. 17th, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, so beautiful! This is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. I love the way it focuses on the human and the divine, and its reminders that Mary was a new mom like any other. The recording brought tears to my eyes. What a gift.

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it, Ruth.
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
ooh, now that was a treat- a christmas treat! lovely!
thanks, kelly!
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
You are very welcome.
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Beautiful version! Why haven't I heard of Corinne May before?! Thanks, Kelly :).
Dec. 17th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
I only heard of her because I found the recording on YouTube when I was looking for a good version of the song to post back in 2008. (Shh - don't tell, but this post is largely a re-print!)
Dec. 18th, 2010 11:17 am (UTC)
Such a beautiful poem! I didn't know what it would be about and you had only been talking about snow so I assumed just nature for a subject and then was surprised. I think that might be part of why I was misty by the end. What a beautiful, humanity laden, heartfelt, worshipful poem. I am off to listen to various versions of the song. Thanks for sharing.
Dec. 18th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Gorgeous!
The phrase "in the bleak midwinter" and the "snow on snow" parts are what call this song to my mind. That it turns out to be about the Nativity is secondary to me for various reasons.
Dec. 18th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
Wow! for the musical bonus. Thank you so much for changing the quality of a rather bleak midwinter morning.
Dec. 18th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
This song turns a dreary bleak day into a beautiful bleak day somehow, which is probably why I like it so much. Glad you liked it too!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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