Christmas Reflection – In the bleak mid-winter

Fiona Macdonald and her mum Marjory perform this beautiful arrangement of Rossetti’s words and Gustaf Holst’s melody, and we trust that this mid-day reflection meets with your approval and allows the words of this well loved carol to flow.

In the Bleak Midwinter” is a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti, commonly performed as a Christmas carol. The poem was published, under the title “A Christmas Carol“, in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly, and was first collected in book form in Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1875).

In 1906, the composer Gustav Holst composed a setting of Rossetti’s words (titled “Cranham”) in The English Hymnal which is sung throughout the world. An anthem setting by Harold Darke composed in 1909 is also widely performed by choirs, and was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts in 2008.

In verse one, Rossetti describes the physical circumstances of the Incarnation in Bethlehem. 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 incorporeal angels attendant at Christ’s birth with Mary‘s ability to render Jesus physical affection. The final verse shifts the description to a more introspective thought process.