She was an English poet who wrote romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She was a sister of the artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and features in several of his paintings. She is honoured with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Anglican Church on 27 April.
In the 1840s, her family faced severe financial difficulties due to the deterioration of her father's physical and mental health. In 1843, he was diagnosed with persistent bronchitis, possibly tuberculosis, and faced losing his sight. He gave up his teaching post at King's College and though he lived another 11 years, he suffered from depression and was never physically well again. Rossetti's mother began teaching to keep the family out of poverty and her sister Maria became a live-in governess, a prospect that Christina Rossetti dreaded. At this time her brother William was working for the Excise Office and Gabriel was at art school, leaving Christina's life at home to become one of increasing isolation. When she was 14, Rossetti suffered a nervous breakdown and left school. Bouts of depression and related illness followed. During this period she, her mother and her sister became absorbed in the Anglo-Catholic movement that developed in the Church of England. Religious devotion came to play a major role in her life.
The carol is a poem by Rossetti that was published under the title A Christmas Carol in January 1872.
The words were set to the tune Cranham by Gustav Holst (1874-1934), who, despite his name, was an English composer. He is best known for his orchestral piece The Planets. The carol was first published in this form in The English Hymnal of 1906.
While Holst’s setting of the carol is popular for congregational singing, the choral arrangement by Harold Darke (1888-1976) is preferred by trained choirs. It was published in 1909.
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 His Mother only 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.
Verse 2 of Harold Darke's setting
1 John 4.7-11: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Another poem by Rossetti that was first published without a title in Time Flies: A Reading Diary in 1885. It was later included in the collection Verses in 1893 under the title Christmastide.
The tune Hermitage was composed by Reginald Owen Morris (1886-1948). Born in York, he studied at the Royal College of Music, where he eventually became professor of counterpoint and composition. He composed most of his music between 1922 and 1932, but his compositions have mainly been overshadowed by his reputation as a teacher. This tune is the one for which he is mainly remembered today.
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 be yours and love be mine;
love to God and others,
love for plea and gift and sign.
For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.
The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.
In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.
Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.
This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).
When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.
The picture of the chalice is symbolic of:
"A joyful image of a Eucharistic community which knows how to celebrate God's goodness to us but also how to reach out to the community and connect with those in need, in pain, in difficulty, who feel lost or neglected, or that they don't belong."
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