December 5, 2020

Advent with Christina Rossetti (4)


Christina Rossetti’s most familiar poem for this season of the year was penned in 1872. She called it simply, “A Christmas Carol,” and it was first published in Scribner’s Monthly Magazine.

The poem weaves its wonder through the vivid use of contrast: overall, the hard, cold bleakness of winter vs. the warmth of a newborn baby; the transcendent greatness of God vs. the small space of a stable; the worthiness of One whom the highest angels worship vs. the simple motherly affection of Mary.

This poem/hymn is a treasure to be savored. May meditating upon it enrich your spirit in this final week of Advent.

In the bleak mid-winter
20130116_123202Frosty 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.

Here is a lovely rendition of the hymn by Quire Cleveland, conducted by Ross W. Duffin, performing at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland OH. The tune was composed by Gustav Holst in 1906.


  1. a beautiful post !
    thank you, Chaplain MIKE.

  2. Mary LaVille says

    Thank you.

  3. One of my favorites, and the rendition is gorgeous….

  4. Don’t really care about art or poetry because I’m a total Philistine but Rossettis’ imagery is really special. Off topic but posts are light today, the greatest Christmas movie ever is The Nightmare Before Christmas
    . We make it a special night every year! Popcorn and the works! Jack Skellington rules!

  5. Lovely. Thank you.

  6. The Guy from Knoxville says

    Chaplain Mike – Great post – I just saw it and I used the music for it in our Communion Service earlier this evening at church. Had great comments about using it during the first part of the Communion (bread) – played on the beautiful string stops on my pipe organ. Chose it at the last minute and it was a good choice. Also for the second part of Communion (wine/juice) I played a piece called What Can I Give Him? and it’s based on the final verse/part of In The Bleak Mid-Winter. Again on the string stops – was just beautiful.

    Thanks for the post – this is a favorite hymn and poem and made for a perfect piece for Communion. Merry Christmas to you and everyone here – I’ve not and will never forget this site and what it’s meant to me over the years.

    All the best,

    The Guy from Knoxville