Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not So Bleak Midwinter

One of my favorite Christmas carols is In the Bleak Midwinter with Christina Rosetti's poignant verses penned in 1872 at the request of Scribner's Monthly magazine for a Christmas poem:

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.

I love especially the last line--because while that is the simplest and most obvious answer, it is the most complex of all gifts:  the thing that sets us apart from every other living thing, the depth and breadth of our very being, our core, the very reason for our existence.  It's the hardest thing to give as well.  And yet once given, it's plain that there really is no other response possible.

Today's nor'easter is reminding me of this carol.  It is definitely bleak outside for anyone and anything subjected to the pommelling going on out there.  The birds have been buffeted for hours in their flying, feeding, and huddling attempts.  I've been trying to capture them with my camera.  Some are plucky and persevering--the chickadees, juncos, jays, and goldfinches.  The doves, though, seem to be having a hard time, withdrawing into themselves, only surfacing every once in awhile to shake off the snow and then hunker down again.

On the other hand, for this New Englander who only sees snow at Christmas time now--if she's lucky--the snow and wind are anything but bleak.  The stark white of the snow against the rich green of the pines, red of the cardinals, the blue of the blue jays, the black of the juncos, the golds of the goldfinches, the checks of the Harry and Downy woodpeckers, the soft browns of the doves, the grays of the chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice--this kaleidoscope of color, this constantly shifting array of feathered friends--is not only not so bleak, it is beautiful.


Morning's Minion said...

This is one of my favorite Christmas hymns also--I prefer teh Holst setting. The one in the SDA hymnal isn't a melody that stays with me.
During our years in WY I missed the flashing colors of the bluejays and cardinals. I"m happy to see them again in KY--and I don't often miss the winter storms so familiar in both New England and Wyoming.
Still--snow can be pretty--to look at.

Rondi said...

I agree about the winter storms. I don't mind it now because I'm not having to shovel or drive in it. That's about the only part I don't miss, though...