Hymn #128: In the Bleak Midwinter

            Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) wrote this poem, entitled “A Christmas Carol,” and it was first printed in Scribner’s Monthly in January, 1872.  The English Hymnal (1906) introduced it as a hymn with the new, plaintive setting by Gustav Holst, with which it has been associated ever since.

           Christina G. Rossetti was the daughter of an Italian refugee to England.  Like her father and brother, she was a gifted writer, and produced several volumes of poetry.  She was also strikingly beautiful and posed as the Virgin Mary for a painting by her brother Dante Gabriel, a noted artist.

            Gustav T. Holst (1874-1934) wrote this melody, CRANHAM, which refers to his birthplace, Cranham Woods, near Cheltenham, England.  Of Swedish heritage, Holst was one of England’s leading composers and a contemporary of Charles V. Stanford and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

            Gustav Holst was unable to realize his dream of becoming a concert pianist due to poor eyesight, weak lungs, and neuritis.  His spirit was not diminished, however, and he achieved international acclaim as a composer and earned great respect for his service as music director at the prestigious St. Paul’s School in London.