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“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.
A magical thing. And sweet to remember.
We are nearer to Spring than we were in September.
I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”
I found a small item of irony in my ongoing studies of women’s history — a sweet carol for Christmas made by a composer putting music to the words of a poet, both of whom are only remembered now for work of a very different nature.
December 5, 1830 – Christina Rossetti born, English poet and author; noted for her best-known poem, Goblin Market, and the poetry collection where it first appeared, Goblin Market and Other Poems, lauded by Gerald Manley Hopkins, Algernon Swinburne, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson; she was also outspoken against slavery, the exploitation of underage girls in prostitution, and cruelty to animals
September 21, 1874 – Gustav Holst, born Gustavus Theodore von Holst was an English composer, arranger and teacher. Best known for his orchestral suite The Planets, he composed a large number of other works across a range of genres, although none achieved comparable success
Christina Rossetti’s poem,“In the Bleak Midwinter” was originally published under the title ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1872, then later set to music as a Christmas carol by Gustav Holst in 1906.
In the Bleak Midwinter
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 mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, 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.
While it’s been many years since I was a believer in any of the dogmas of the Christian religions, I still find the lovely lyrics and music which Jesus has inspired to be a far truer expression of the peace and good will that he tried to teach the world.