Tuesday, February 2, 2021

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.



About the Poem


In verse one, Rossetti describes the physical circumstances of the Incarnation in Bethlehem, which refers to the birth of Jesus, when God became flesh and assumed a human nature. In verse two, Rossetti contrasts Christ's first and second coming. The third verse dwells on Christ's birth and describes the simple surroundings, in a humble stable and watched by beasts of burden. Rossetti achieves another contrast in the fourth verse, this time between the angels who were attending Christ at his birth and Mary's ability to show Jesus physical affection, a kiss. The final verse shifts the description to a more introspective thought process.


While this is a Christmas poem, it was originally published, under the title "A Christmas Carol", in the January 1872 issue of Scribner's Monthly, Midwinter itself has two meanings: the Winter Solstice or the actual midpoint of winter. Many people think the midpoint of winter is today, Groundhog Day, but it actually varies. The 2021 Farmers’ Almanac says that it is Wednesday, February 3rd at 4:49 p.m. EST—the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Either way, we have reached midwinter, so I thought this was an appropriate poem for today.


We are supposed to get hit pretty bad by a nor’easter today. It is the same storm that came through northern New Jersey, New York City, and Boston yesterday. I’m hoping it won’t be as bad here. Our local weather has said that while the prediction is 6”-12”, they believe it will be on the lower end of that scale.



naturgesetz said...

Here on the coast, at 7:30 a.m., we have about an inch of slush.

I'm too literal-minded, and I very much doubt that things would have been frozen quite so solid in Judea even in midwinter.

February 2, being forty days after Christmas is when we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Luke 2:22-38. Somehow that came to be the day on which candles were blessed for use in church, and people would bring theirs from home to be blessed as well, so the day acquired the name Candlemas. (Conspiracy theorists could see the current mania for Groundhog Day, displacing awareness of Candlemas, as part of the War on Christmas. LOL)

As for Groundhog Day, outside western Pennsylvania Punxsatawney Phil is meaningless. I don't care if it's sunny there or not. It's cloudy here, so we're in for an early spring.

Joe said...

Naturegesetz, since the snowfall last night, my part of Vermont has already gotten a little over 3 inches. As for Punxsatawney Phil, he is definitely meaningless in Vermont. We always have at least 3-4 more months (six weeks doesn't even factor in) of winter. The snow on the ground won't be gone until mud season sometime in May.

Susan said...

Lovely poem, Joe. Thank you. As for yesterday's snow storm in NYC, right now our official snowfall amount in Central Park is 17.2 inches. There is a chance of additional snow throughout today, but nothing considered accumulating.

Anonymous said...

Joe, in England they sing this poem as a Xmas hymn to a lovely tune (by the composer of "The Planets") which however requires the last line of each verse to be sung twice. Check it out on You Tube. Sorry about the snow but on Sunday my daughter in Chicago had 10 inches of snow! Roderick

JiEL said...

Snow falling with some wind began around 10 o'clock this morning and we're not expecting more than 4 or 6 inches of this white stuff.

Must be used to because we live in «NORTH America». I'd rather have this nice snow than hurricanes and floods like in some USA's places.
Montreal is well equiped to take care of the snow ans all our 5 000 km of streets and 10 000 km of sidewalks will be cleaned in few days.

For now, just enjoy the beauty of what the snow do on landscapes.