In the Bleak Mid-winter

Weather Eye
with John Maunder

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.


These words, from the first verse of the well-known carol, were written by the English poet Christina Rossetti in 1872 in response to a request from the magazine Scribner's Monthly for a Christmas poem.

It was published posthumously in Rossetti's Poetic Works in 1904. The poem became a Christmas carol after it appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906. The text of this Christmas poem has been set to music many times; the most famous settings being composed by Gustav Holst and Harold Edwin Darke in the early 20th Century. The version by Darke is favoured by cathedral choirs, and is the one usually heard performed on the radio broadcasts of Nine Lessons and Carols by the King's College choir.

The carol featured in the Queen's Christmas TV message in 2012. The carol will also feature on Nine Lessons and Carols by the King's College choir this Christmas Eve, and was also part of the Music and the Spoken Word programme from Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sunday December 20 on New Zealand’s Prime TV.
 

Weatherwise, of some significance is that seven years ago on December 15, 2013 the Mail Online (UK) had the following headlines relating to a severe snow storm, which hit the Holy City – and at the same time Cairo experienced its first snowfall in more than 100 years. Perhaps a reminder that Christmas carols really do come alive.

A Christmas card come to Life: Jerusalem hit by worst snowstorm for 20 years, as eight inches fall across Holy City.

- Unusually heavy snowfall, as temperatures dip below freezing.
- Dome of the Rock and Western Wall bathed in white blanket.
- Prime Minister Natanyahu gets in on the fun with family snowball fight.

As all my readers will be aware, the weather is always with us; and although we may all hope that the weather this Christmas and in 2021 will be to our liking, it is perhaps important to remember that in the Southern Hemisphere where the carol In the Bleak Mid-Winter may seem unusual, there have been two significant and tragic events at Christmas.

The first was on Christmas Eve in New Zealand, in 1953, when the Tangiwai rail disaster occurred with loss of 151 lives following a rapid rise in the Tangiwai river. The second was in Darwin, in Australia on Christmas Day 1974, when Tropical Cyclone Tracy killed 71 people and destroyed 80 per cent of the city's houses.

I take this opportunity of wishing all my readers a very happy Christmas and I will be back in 2021 with some more WeatherEyes.



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