Recommended Poem: In The Bleak Midwinter

By Siobhan Chapman

I walked down Bold Street in Liverpool late in the afternoon one day last week, passing the gaudy decorations and hearing the ubiquitous refrain of Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’. As I approached Central Station a lone trumpeter, busking on the other side of the street, struck up the opening bars of the tune to which Christina Rossetti’s ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’ is set as a carol. For that moment, the clear notes of the trumpet cut through the tinselly hubbub, just as Rossetti’s words cut through the hype of Christmas. Whether or not you share Rossetti’s religion conviction, you can’t fault her plea for simplicity and sincerity in the face of ostentatious excess.

In the Bleak Midwinter

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.

(1872)