Christmas Carols – In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Well it was pretty bleak a few years ago here in London… actually truth be told when we have an inch or two the country grinds to a halt, we quite simply have no idea how to deal with snow of any consequence.

Anyway snow, winter, Christmas and of course Christmas Carols…Christmas Carols celebrate the essence of Christmastide because despite everything else around it Christmas is still has the birth of Jesus at its centre.

Now I was raised in an Anglican Church and remember going caroling with my choir of which myself, my brother and parents were all members. Of course we, the children always ended in the front line at the old people’s homes…they always that old people smell but were lovely old wrinklies who would supply us with mince pies, mulled wine for the adults and hot orange for us. But we also sang on street corners, in pubs and clubs and for the first time in years I actually heard so carolers last year…I brought back some fond memories.

So carols have a special place in my heart and In The Bleak Midwinter especially, I love the lyrics and Harold Drakes tune.

The carol is a based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti written sometime before 1872 and in response to a request from the monthly magazine Scribner’s for a Christmas poem and what a cracker (no pun intended!)

Sadly Rossetti never saw it published or set to music by Holst (whose best known work is probably ‘The Planets’) . In terms of success it made it into the English Hymnal in 1906 and Harold Drakes setting was named best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts in 2008.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5. 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.

Clearly the poem is about the second coming of Christ, more generally known as The Nativity, a time when Jesus was born in a stable (Luke 2:1-38, Matthew 2:1-23)

If you get a chance go along to a candlelit carol service as it adds much balance to the all-consuming consumerism of ‘Christ-mass’.

There is free sheet music here