Christianity,  Music

The Remarkable Woman behind ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’

Karen Swallow Prior has a fascinating piece at TGC about the author of “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.” Her name is Christina Rossetti (1830–1894), and Prior writes that she was a woman of “deep Christian conviction.” Prior concludes:

The paradox of Rossetti’s life is that her “spirit of self-postponement” produced some of the finest Christian poetry written—the gift of herself, given to her Savior and received by the world.

I commend to you the rest of Prior’s essay, which you can read here. I also recommend two versions of the song that are staples around my house during this time of year. My favorite version is Shawn Colvin’s, and a close second is from the Indigo Girls. The audio and lyrics are below. Enjoy.

Shaw Colvin

Indigo Girls

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 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.


  • Christiane Smith

    thank you, DENNY, for this post . . .

    I love the lines from Rossetti’s poem: “Yet what I can, I give him –
    Give my heart.” and I think of Augustine’s words ‘our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee’. This is one of the great themes of our Christian faith . . . the source of our peace within the Christ Who shelters our very souls . . .

    “My soul is at peace, for long ago, I ceased to belong to myself.”
    (Therese of Lisieux)

  • Lisa Dulaney

    Christina Rossetti was one of the poets that were quoted in the Language Books used in the small Christian combination homeschool/day school that our family participated in with our three children (K-8). My oldest child, a daughter, used to recite the lines from one of Miss Rossetti’s poems and then at the end of the lines, my daughter would say: “by Christina Rossetti, I LIKE that girl!!” Poetry is, sadly, lacking in today’s educational system.

  • Christiane Smith

    Hi DENNY,
    I don’t ‘tweet’, but concerning the Wheaton controversy, is this from Wiki true? “On October 13, 2007, Wheaton College’s Stanton L. Jones signed interfaith document A Common Word Between Us and You, agreeing that Islam and Christianity can be at peace with each other.[42]”

    If it is, then that may be some reason for the present confusion. (?)

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