Christmas with Christina

Joy

Every Christmas, I listen to In the Bleak Mid-Winter, never realizing the connection to Art Nouveau and the Pre-Raphaelites.  That is, until recently.  Dante Rossetti’s (one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelites) kid sister, Christina, wrote the poem which was set as a Christmas carol by Gustav Holst and then by Harold Darke.  As an aside, Christina was the model for one of Dante Rossetti’s most famous paintings: The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.

Christina Rossetti’s  gift was poetry. Encouraged by the works of those who came before, she repaid this legacy by inspiring others that came after her.    Virginia Woolf, Gerard Hopkins, Philip Larkin and Elizabeth Jennings were among the many influenced by her writings.

 

A Christmas Carol

 Christina Rossetti

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 midwinter

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.

12 thoughts on “Christmas with Christina

  1. Very interesting! I’ve always been fond of Art Nouveau and the Pre-Raphaelites, and am glad to see that they’re (finally) gaining in popularity after having been dismissed and denigrated for so long. This may be a reaction on the part of the public (maybe even the art establishment?) to the chronic formlessness and even intentional ugliness of so much art of the latter half of the 20th century. In defense of those artists, the world had turned quite ugly (two dreadful world wars and violence and oppression everywhere). Undoubtedly art tends to reflect the value system of a culture.

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    • Well said!! What I find interesting is that every generation wants to be better than the last so they tend to discount what has gone before – including Christina’s poetry. She is more accepted now than shortly after her death. This thought makes me look more deeply into my own viewpoint. I think we need to understand the stories behind the art so that we are open to the messages and symbols. I agree wholeheartedly – art reflects the values of a culture.

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  2. I understand the inspiration. Thank you for that. I had not heard of her before. Poetry is my favorite form of writing and I think to do well, the most difficult. What other writing do you need to have a good economy with words, while thinking imagery, metaphors, adjectives. And then plan to rhyme it ? not all does, but when it works, it’s fantastic. I still love the classic poets- Dickinson, Browning, Frost. Angelou has a great tempo but often doesn’t rhyme. I hope you had a wonderful day.

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    • Christina Rossetti had an extraordinary life as I am beginning to discover. I just started to delve into art history and have found the stories profound and moving. I had studied Christina’s work in high school many many many years ago but didn’t know her connection to Dante. The whole family was unusual. Thank you for your comments! So much appreciated.

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    • I had a wonderful day and I am glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to check in with my blogger family! As I look forward to 2013, I know that our lives will continue to evolve – it is good to be able to share our thoughts, hopes and dreams. I am so glad that you stopped by…

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