Today, as I read in the Writer’s Almanac, is the 185th birthday of the Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti. She is the author of one a poem that has become a wonderful Christmas carol, and the one that has become my favorite in my old age. Several composers, including Gustav Holst, have set it to music, but my favorite version is by the British composer and conductor John Rutter. You can listen to it here. (It’s the last line of the music that makes this one soar.) And, leaving out the fourth stanza, follow here:
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,
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.
Did you hear that last line? I think John Rutter’s music for this piece is excellent. The whole poem speaks of the true story and meaning of this Christmas season that is just starting. Starting my December off with this carol has been a delight.