Wednesday, September 06, 2023

In the bleak midwinter

103 Cranham. Irregular.

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.

2 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.

3 Angels and archangels
   may have gathered there,
   cherubim and seraphim
   thronged the air,
   but only his mother,
   in her maiden bliss,
   worshiped the Beloved
   with a kiss.

4 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.
                        Christina G. Rossetti
                        The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Yes, I know, "bleak midwinter" definitely doesn't describe Israel in the spring (when Jesus was probably born, although that's debated). But, again, look beyond the literal and grab the theology of the hymn. It's written with a simple faith that approaches God, knowing that they have nothing to offer except themselves. And what is greater than that?

Someone else commented on the author's works: "Miss Rossetti's verses are profoundly suggestive and lyrical, and deserve a larger place than they occupy in the hymnody of the church. Her sonnets are amongst the finest in the English language." [Rev. W. Garrett Horder] inserts a verse after verse 2:

3 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.
I can see why the Methodist hymnal excised it. It doesn't flow as well as the other verses.
</idle musing>

No comments: