Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”
“In the Bleak Midwinter”, a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti, was published under the title “A Christmas Carol” in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly. The poem was set to music by composer Gustav Holst in 1906.
What can I give?
Christina Rosetti gave us a personal tender poem pouring out her love for the transcendent God and later, in a rush, Gustav Holst vocalized her words with a snowy melody that perfectly acquaints us with her quiet passion. How pleased God must be with the gifts of these two artists whose 19th century lives were crippled by illness, financial despair, loneliness and depression.
Their living legacy of lyrics and music are sprinkled delicately on the page waiting for me to sing them out from some curious reflexive viscera. As the organ introduces the tune, I nervously set my heart to sing with a childlike exuberance, “Me too! Me! Me! I want to give too.” But what can I give? I have a terrible voice. Off-key. Tone-deaf. Dissonant. Breathless. Creaking. Croaking. Grating. I will make a mess of this magnificent carol. People will judge me. Shoot me dirty looks. Wish I’d shut it. Hope I choke. Hate me!
He calls me to stillness. I respond in silence, close my eyes and allow Peace to rule my heart. In one second my transformed heart awakens and shakes off the grumbling in my head. I sing as loud as I can with my whole engaged core. I give God imperfect singing of this perfect song. I set my voice on an imaginary course of graceful, harmonious, angelic melody. This, I believe, is what He hears.
Oh my God, I love that my discordant heart can be stilled by Your Peace. I love that a perfect gift for You is my imperfect singing.