Christmas Alphabet : I for In The Bleak Midwinter (James Taylor)

Christmas opens the door to Hope.

Even in the bleakest of bleak Midwinters.

Though the earth be hard as Iron and Water stands like Stone there is yet, as Snow falls on Snow, Hope in a humble birth.

There is Hope in a Mother’s simple kiss.

Hope brings riches even to the poorest.

Give your Heart.

Give your Heart.

James Taylor recognises the genius of Christina Rossetti’s Poem and presents it faithfully with grace and winning simplicity.

One of the most moving meditations on the mystery of the Incarnation was written in the 15th Century, ‘I syng of a mayden’.

I syng of a mayden
That is makeles,
king of alle kinges
to here sone che chees.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dew in Aprylle,
That fallyt on the gras.

He cam also stille
To his modres bowr
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the flowr.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder lay
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the spray.

Moder & mayden
Was nevere noon but she:
Well may swich a lady
Godes moder be.

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.

He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
There was never, ever one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

Still, still, still as Mary’s and her babe’s Hearts.

Still, still, still.

The choristers of Ely Cathedral still time with this matchless performance.

The author of the Poem remains unknown.

The setting is by Patrick Hadley (1899-1973).

Now for a Poem from a major figure in Irish Literature, Seán Ó Ríordáin (1916 – 1977).

First in English translation and then in the original Irish.

Women’s Christmas takes place on January 6th – the feast of The Epiphany.

By tradition in Ireland it was the day when the heroic efforts of Mother’s, Wives and Daughters were rewarded by a day of rest from household chores.

Women’s Christmas

There was power in the storm that escaped last night,

last night on Women’s Christmas,

from the desolate madhouse behind the moon

and screamed through the sky at us, lunatic,

making neighbours’ gates screech like geese

and the hoarse river roar like a bull,

quenching my candle like a blow to the mouth

that sparks a quick flash of rage.

I’d like if that storm would come again,

a night I’d be feeling weak

coming home from the dance of life

and the light of sin dwindling,

that every moment be full of the screaming sky,

that the world be a storm of screams,

and I wouldn’t hear the silence coming over me,

the car’s engine come to a stop.

Oíche Nollaig na mBan

Bhí fuinneamh sa stoirm a éalaigh aréir,

Aréir oíche Nollaig na mBan,

As gealt-teach iargúlta tá laistiar den ré

Is do scréach tríd an spéir chughainn ’na gealt,

Gur ghíosc geataí comharsan mar ghogallach gé,

Gur bhúir abhainn shlaghdánach mar tharbh,

Gur múchadh mo choinneal mar bhuille ar mo bhéal

A las ’na splanc obann an fhearg.

Ba mhaith liom go dtiocfadh an stoirm sin féin

An oíche go mbeadsa go lag

Ag filleadh abhaile ó rince an tsaoil

Is solas an pheaca ag dul as,

Go líonfaí gach neomat le liúrigh ón spéir,

Go ndéanfaí den domhan scuaine scread,

Is ná cloisfinn an ciúnas ag gluaiseacht fám dhéin,

Ná inneall an ghluaisteáin ag stad.

Next Red Letter Day on your Calendar – 13 December when the next Post in The Alphabet Series will be published, S for ….

 

41 thoughts on “Christmas Alphabet : I for In The Bleak Midwinter (James Taylor)

  1. What a beautiful version of the bleak midwinter. And wow, the poem by Seán Ó Ríordáin…I sometimes think this season concentrates creative attention and intention. The poems and songs and arrangements are somehow necessary in the falling light.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember and will be going back to The Unthanks’ version of ‘Bleak Midwinter’, Thom – but JT has his own spirituality, no doubt. Yes, the medieval poem is itself ‘makeles’ in its wondrous acceptance – total conviction – The Ely Choir version sustains that. I really enjoyed the poem, with that sudden ending scratched in banal language to suck up the force of the imagery, converging on that absolute… stop. Ah, but how does it glimmer in the Irish ?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I reckon the best ever version of In the Bleak Midwinter was by Bert Jansch: unadorned simplicity that takes no prisoners, facing up to the meaning of the song. For my taste James Taylor is lost in Disney schmalz here: that makes the song a cop-out.

    Liked by 1 person

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