Friday, December 23, 2005

In the Bleak Midwinter

I am listening to a delicious version of Christina Rossetti's famous carol from the choir of New College, Oxford. This perhaps is the msot beautiful of all the Chistmas songs. Nearly 30 years ago I learned the tenor part for a Christmas performance. (Nowadays I have to sing bass; I have Le sang froid Anglais - what Noel Coward translated as the Englishman and his usual bloody cold.)

Of course the words are inappropriate for Palestine in September - or whenever it was the wondrous deed was done. No snow; no frosty wind to make any moan; no earth as hard as iron; no water like a stone. No heat in the very sod the saint has printed. No winter's snow to see amidst. No cold winter's night that was so deep. But in truth not many carols have any reference to the sort of Northern European winter conditions that make them difficult to sing in the antipodes. Winds through the olive trees has the sheep on Bethelhem hills knee deep in snow, but generally the snowy Christmas card imagary is avoided.

The difficulty of the bleak midwinter is that in the last line everybody fails to fit all the words in. The "Yet what" has to be sung on the first note. and then it continues, "I can I give Him; give my heart!"


Deb said...

This is one of my favorites also. You certainly do give Him your heart but you save part of it for us too. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and how fortunate for all of us that you are simply an extraordinary man. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

...perhaps we could consider the beautiful allegorical nature of these lyrics. long ago, in the bleak midwinter of the human soul, hearts and earth were hard as stone; snow had fallen on the human condition - snow on snow on snow - covering the lifeless terrain in icy stillness. Into this wintry mix, God sends His Son - a tender shoot, a root springing forth with Life. Heav'n could not hold Him nor earth sustain, yet a cradle suffices to welcome the Babe.
My favorite part of this glorious song is when the angels, arch angels, cherubim and seraphim are thronging the air.... but His mother worships Him with a kiss. It always makes me cry.

May His richest blessings be yours in 2008 -
Beth, a CLL patient in Illinois