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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, December 12, 2011

CHRISTMAS CAROLS YOU DON'T KNOW - Bleak Midwinter

"This song touches my lost soul"

Everyone knows "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night," and unfortunately a lot of lousy songs people sing around Christmas like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" are familiar as well. But there are a lot of other, wonderful carols out there, usually quite old and quite beautiful that we should all know better.

In 1872, Scribner's Magazine put out a contest, asking for a new Christmas poem, and an English poet named Christina Rosetti offered In The Bleak Midwinter as her effort. Years later, after she was dead, the poem was printed in a posthumous book called Poetic Works and someone put it to music by Gustav Holst (best known for the Planets). Later, Harold Edwin Darke wrote a chorale version of the song.

This carol is specifically about Jesus Christ, describing the bitter cold of winter (Jesus was probably born in the spring, but this is a poem, so you can take liberties to set a scene), the response of someone to such an unbelievable, earth-shaping event, and finally a statement of love and worship. Many people have covered this, such as the unforgettable Julie Andrews, but I think the recent Annie Lenox version is the most powerful, even though Lenox herself is not a Christian to the best of my knowledge.



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.

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.

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.

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