Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

In the Bleak Midwinter, The February Blizzard of 2010, A Singable Poem, A Simple Gift

Posted on: February 7, 2010


Snowflake photographed by Wilson Bentley

Writing this in February of 2010, I remember some serious snowstorms in my youth.  But never in all my days do I recall a winter storm with snow as deep as what is piled up outside my door in Arlington, VA.  We already had snow on the ground when this storm began.  AND, the weather man says that more snow is on the way later in the week…snow on snow on snow…

All this snow on snow reminds me of Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  A beautiful Christmas poem which can be sung.  Rossetti writes of a winter in which “Snow had fallen, snow on snow, / Snow on snow, /In the bleak mid-winter /Long ago.”

In the Bleak Midwinter
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.

I found the first verse of the poem illustrated is Roger Priddy’s sweet book of Sing-Along Christmas Carols.


Christmas Carols (Priddy Books)

Illustrated by Holly Russell
(This book comes with a sing-along CD with arrangements by Andrew Dodge and sung by Emma Cannon, Gerard Carey, and Andrew Dodge)

My favorite setting of this song is by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) and it can be heard many recordings. 

This excellent page for “In the Bleak Midwinter,” features text, midi-files (for piano, organ or bells), and free PDF sheet music for download:
http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh221.sht

The printed music is available online by clicking here:
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/PDF/cranham.pdf

Historical information on the song and poem also available by clicking here: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/in_the_bleak_midwinter.htm

For singing along, I love the guitar rendition by John Fahey (Track 14):
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Guitar-Vol-John-Fahey/dp/B0000003O7/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1265481694&sr=8-9

You can also sing-along with these wonderful YouTube videos:

This one includes the words with the video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRobryliBLQ

This one sung by the great opera star Kiri Te Kanawa (which also included words)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbcpKCdTREQ

**********************

I am writing now in December of 2010.  Nearly a year has passed since I wrote the post about “In the Bleak Midwinter.” It is almost ironic that since then, we experienced the hottest summer ever on record in Washington, DC and yet we are now about to be buried under with snow again.

I have had the marvelous experience this holiday season to be repeatedly made aware of Simple Gifts.  I have re-discovered the song, heard children singing at a nursing home, discovered “Simple Gifts” as the theme of 2010 holiday decorations at the White House, and heard “The Little Drummer Boy” anew in the light of its being a story about a little boy giving the simple best of what he has to offer.  And just now, again, another song, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” presented itself as a Simple Gift.

Like “The Little Drummer Boy,” the story teller in this poem is stuck by profound wonder and seeks to give something worthy of the moment.  The narrator, wishing for something more tangible, gives something ultimately which will last forever, her heart.  I take this to mean she gives her love and her faith.  In this case, the narrator is a Christian, but I think anyone of any faith can take from this that love and BELIEF IN someone else is a gift more precious than anything we can lay our hands on.

**********************
Other Posts on the Subject of SIMPLE GIFTS
**********************

In the Bleak Midwinter, A Singable Poem, A Simple Gift

http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/in-the-bleak-m…ingable-poem-a/

In the Bleak Midwinter, The February Blizzard of 2010, A Singable Poem, A Simple Gift
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/in-the-bleak-midwinter/

The Little Drummer Boy, A Singable Picture Book, A Simple Gift
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/the-little-drummer-boy-a-singable-picture-book-a-simple-gift/

Simple Gifts at the White House:
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/simple-gifts-at-the-white-house/

Simple Gifts, a Singable Picture Book:
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/simple-gifts-a-singable-picture-book/

*

Simple Gifts (The Shaker Hymn)

Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

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