Piano Cover | Lyrical Analysis & Reflection

‘But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~ Luke 2:10–12 (NIV)

In the bleak midwinter, 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 midwinter, 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 midwinter, a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a manger full of hay;
Enough for HIm, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air,
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,

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 him my heart.

Long long ago, one cold night, some shepherds were guarding their sheep in a field near Bethlehem. All at once, they saw an unanticipated sight. An angel from heaven appeared before them and proclaimed the Good News, ‘A Saviour has been born!’. More and more angels came down from heaven, singing praises and spreading glory.

At that very moment, in a forlorn stable at Bethlehem, a hush descended over the cows and camels. Mary embraced her tiny newborn with a kiss and laid him on a manger filled with hay. Isaiah’s prophecy unfolded, love had come down from heaven.

‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ is a poem written by the well-known English poet Christina Rossetti and was published in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly under the title “A Christmas Carol”. Born in the year 1830 as the youngest of four siblings, she was a writer and poet who wrote words that captured the hearts of young and old.

Christina Rossetti’s beautiful and evocative words in her poem ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, takes us back to the simple and serene night of Jesus’ birth. She does not mention Jesus or his birth in the first verse, rather she uses imagery to describe that peaceful night. The bleak midwinter that she wrote about expresses the desolated state the Earth was in, with sin and hatred. Jesus came down as the light of the world, as the Prince of Peace.

In the second and third verses, Rossetti reminds that our God almighty is powerful and strong, and yet he chose a humble stable. A breastful of milk and a manger full of hay is sufficient for him, even though angels worship him day and night in heaven. Jesus’ life on Earth taught us the importance of being humble, and thus humility is the essence of Christmas.

There is an emotional rise in the fourth verse. Rossetti mentions the extraordinary sight of angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim, all gathered around the stable rejoicing and singing praises. But Mary, young and innocent, worshipped her baby boy with a kiss of joy.

‘But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ Luke 1:30–33 (NIV)

All the verses so far have been written in a third person perspective. But the final verse is a first-person narrative. The speaker of these words could be interpreted as Jesus’ young mother. Mary was no shepherd. Mary was no wise man. But she was chosen and she was blessed. The greatest gift she could ever give to her baby is her heart. This verse is relatable to the readers as well. Love and humility are more precious than silver and gold.

So each year as we celebrate Christmas and remember the beautiful birth of Christ, let us serve each other with love. Let us humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and be Christ’s body on Earth.

‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less’
- Rick Warren (Evangelical Christian pastor and author)

In The Bleak Midwinter Sheet Music from Hymnary.org

The words to ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ has been set to music various times. The most well-known version is the one composed by Gustav Holst in the year 1906 and the hymn tune is called “Cranham”. Holst pays justice to the amazing words of the poem by transforming it into a graceful Christmas carol. This version has been sung by a lot of talented artists and choirs.

Another beautiful version of this hymn was composed by Harold Darke in the year 1990. This version is more advanced as each verse is treated slightly differently. Darke’s setting has been favored by cathedral choirs all around the world.

Notable Recordings of Holst’s version

In the Bleak Midwinter — Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Watch on YouTube

In the Bleak Midwinter — Julie Andrews
Watch 1873 Christmas Special on YouTube
Listen to ‘Crooners and Christmas’ on Spotify
Listen to ‘Christmas with Julie Andrews’ on Apple Music

In the Bleak Midwinter — David Phelps from his album It Must Be Christmas (2018)
Watch live performance on YouTube
Listen to ‘It Must Be Christmas — David Phelps’ on Apple Music
Listen to ‘It Must Be Christmas — David Phelps’ on Spotify
Buy the song on Amazon

In the Bleak Midwinter — Susan Boyle from her album Home for Christmas (2013)
Listen on YouTube
Listen to ‘Home for Christmas’ on Apple Music
Listen to ‘Home for Christmas’ on Spotify
Buy the song on Amazon

In the Bleak Midwinter — Trumpet Tune — Tine Thing Helseth
Watch on YouTube

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Isata Kanneh-Mason — Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter — Arr. Kanneh-Mason
Watch on YouTube

Bleak Midwinter — Alexander Armstrong from his album A Year of Songs (2015)
Watch live performance on YouTube
Listen to ‘A Year of Songs’ on Spotify
Listen to ‘A Year of Songs’ on Apple Music
Buy the song on Amazon

Notable Recordings of Darke’s version

In the Bleak Midwinter — Sarah McLachlan from her holiday album Wintersong (2006)
Watch on YouTube
Listen to ‘Wintersong’ on Apple Music
Listen to ‘Wintersong’ on Spotify
Buy the song on Amazon

In the Bleak Midwinter — Sarah Brightman from her album A Winter Symphony (2008)
Watch on YouTube
Listen to ‘A Winter Symphony’ on Apple Music
Listen to ‘A Winter Symphony’ on Spotify
Buy the song on Amazon

In the Bleak Midwinter — King’s College Cambridge
Watch on YouTube


Originally published at http://disciplescanvas.wordpress.com on December 22, 2018.

Computer science student, reader, writer & musician

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