Poetry Review: “In Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti

"Christina Rossetti"

“Christina Rossetti”

After a brown and mild Christmas, winter has come again to the North Country. As has the cold.

For a few months now I have been getting up at 5:00 AM to walk with Sue. She has been doing it since August, I have been doing it for just a couple of months… rain or shine or bitter cold.

For weeks now, the sky has been largely overcast, hiding the stars in the morning and the sun during the day. It is not the kind of winter we are used to here in the North Country. Though it is difficult now to say what a “typical” winter really is. Climate change and memory battle one another.

Here is a familiar winter poem.

Enjoy!

In the Bleak Midwinter
by Christina Rossetti

 

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.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

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.

.

The opening stanza of this famous poem is what draws us in. The wonderful sound of “frosty wind made moan.” And the inspired repetition of “snow” in line three. Only a great poet would dare try to repeat the same word 5 times in a single line!

Rossetti at her best is irresistible. And this is Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite movement at its best.

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