Fiction, Music, Poetry, Reviews and the Occasional Drawing.

Monday, December 21, 2015

In the Bleak Midwinter

"The darkest nights produce the brightest stars."


Humans have been aware of the winter solstice since at least the stone age and built monuments, like Stonehenge, designed to align with the solstice sunrise and sunset. There's something about this particular time of the year, when day is shortest and night is longest, that brings out feelings of despair and, strangely enough, celebration.

Why celebrate the darkest and coldest time of year? Maybe because that is when celebration is most needed. Charles Dickens may have said it best, in his A Christmas Carol, as a gentleman asks Ebeneezer Scrooge for a charitable donation:

"A few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices."

In The Bleak Midwinter is a Christmas carol based on a poem written by Christina Rossetti in 1872. In 1906, it was put to music by Gustav Holst. This performance by Julie Andrews is from 1973.





Christina Rossetti - portrait by her brother
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.