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Friday, December 09, 2005

"In the Bleak Midwinter"—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. I've never liked any of the tunes I've heard the Christina Rossetti poem set to and sung in churches. OK, one I've NOT heard it sung to is KING'S WESTON (link is a midi file—the Ralph Vaughan-Williams adaptation of the old tune). Its minor key sound fits nicely with the "bleak midwinter" imagry, I think. With minor vocal and rhythmic elisions (made for other texts it is often mated to, as well), it can be made to fit the natural rhythms of the words nicely enough... except for that last verse, which has a very different feel... and focus, changing from third person observer to participant. So, several years ago, I wrote the little tune below as a standalone, one-verse song, using only the last verse of "In the Bleak Midwinter".
GiveHim
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