Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Poems First...

It is all too easy to forget that many of our Christmas Carols were first written as poems, and later set to music.

There is a risk that we sing them without stopping to recognise the poet's skill and the real meaning.

Of course, much of the Victorian verse/carol repertoire is a bit too… well Victorian (as an example of bathos it is hard to beat 'his children crowned,  // All in white shall wait around.')

But Christina Rossetti's famous poem is still very good (and fortunately has been brilliantly set to music, too).

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

In the bleak mid-winter, 
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 mid-winter 
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 mid-winter 
A stable-place sufficed 
The Lord God Almighty, 
Jesus Christ.

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.

Angels and archangels 
May have gathered there, 
Cherubim and seraphim 
Thronged the air, 
But only His mother 
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.

Christina Rossetti

She also wrote this, which I find less good, but not as bad as it looks at first sight…

Love came down at Christmas,

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Rossetti


Patricius said...

Thanks for an excellent series of poems. Not sure I wholly agree on the two Victorian ladies, though. I am always struck, somewhat negatively, by the odd jerks in the rhythm of "In the bleak midwinter" while Mrs Alexander's "where like stars his children crowned/ all in white shall wait around," is, I believe a reference to the Apocalypse (chapter 7) - "those who have washed their robes white again in the blood of the lamb"(also referenced in the antiphon of All Saints "O quam gloriosum"). What is often forgotten is that her hymns- others include "All things bright and beautiful" and "There is a green hill far away"- were actually meant for children. Nevertheless, you have an anthology of high quality in the making here.

Cuttysark said...

Nice christmas poem, you did great by this website. Anyway, i discovered your site while working on pinterest Thank you for a nice share of poems.

Sarah Bowen said...

What a nice collection of Christmas poems. Reading poetry about the holiday has become one of my traditions. I choose some of the best or verses of short Christmas poems and include them in my Christmas greetings for family. Thanks for sharing this. Have a great holiday!