In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter
by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
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 mid-winter
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 mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful 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 only His Mother
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.

____________________________

The picture at the top of my page is via https://www.bookmundi.com/israel/travel-guide/

In the first stanza, we are painted a picture of the world that Jesus was born into. We do not actually know the specific day upon which Christ was born. However, the spiritual circumstances of a world without Christ might be described by Christians as cold and lifeless. Christmas is celebrated in the bleak midwinter of the author so that setting works well as a backdrop. So providing the wintry backdrop works within context.

In the second stanza, we are at first presented with the figure of Christ at the Second Coming. He is in his Glory. The rest of the stanza then contrasts this picture with the circumstances of his humble arrival.

The third stanza, we contrast the adoration of the angels with the simple circumstances of where he was born – a manger filled with livestock and his first milk. The fourth stanza builds on the third, contrasting the adoration of angels with the love of his mother. They worshipped with praise and she worshipped with a kiss.

In the last stanza, we get the perspective of the author. She has nothing worldly to give. The gift of her heart is all that she has. It is strange to see something so significant depicted as something of last resort. I believe we are intended to think about that value juxtaposition as the line and poem ends.

I find this to be a haunting, and yet beautiful, Christmas carol. Usually when winter is depicted in a carol, it is a joyous setting. Here the setting is literally described as being bleak. The original poem has been set to music many times. The video below is from my favorite effort at that.

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