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This Christmas carol is much-loved. Its popularity is due to the bleak imagery of the words combined with the simplicity of the tune. It was written in 1872 by Christina Rossetti (1830-94), sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, famous English painter of the Pre-Raphaelite school. Her poetry is largely melancholic and centre around death.She had some of her works published in her brother William's periodical the 'Germ'. The tune and harmony used do not vary, and are not used for any other hymns I know, and they are written to echo the words, viz. the falling arpeggios on 'snow is falling, snow on snow, snow on snow.' The words are as follows:

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 incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
may have gathered there
cherubim and seraphim
thronged the air;
but his mother only,
in her maiden bliss,
worshiped 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.

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