> Steeleye Span > Songs > In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter

[ Roud - ; CorpusChristi at Old Songs ; Mudcat 31533 ; Christina Rossetti, Gustav Holst (1872)]

Christina Rossetti wrote the poignant words for this well known song in response to a request from the magazine Scribner’s Monthly for a Christmas poem. The tune is by Gustav Holst.

John Kirkpatrick sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 1986 on the Greenwich Village album Yuletracks.

The Albion Band sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 1985 on their album A Christmas Present from The Albion Band. The Albion Christmas Band sang it in 2008 on their CD Snow on Snow, in 2009 on their CD Traditional, and in 2014 on their CDs One for the Road.

Martyn Wyndham-Read and company sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 1998 on their Country Branch CD Maypoles to Mistletoe.

Maddy Prior sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 2004 on Steeleye Span’s CD, Winter, but left out the third verse like many hymn books who censor the “breastful of milk”.

Corncrow sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 2012 on their EP Christmas Dinner for Horses.

Josienne Clarke sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 2013 on her and Ben Walker’s CD Midwinter.

Iona Fyfe sang her Scots translation of In the Bleak Midwinter, with a third verse written by her, on her 2020 download single In the Bleak Midwinter.

A Winter Union sang In the Bleak Midwinter on their 2023 album Sooner After Solstice.

Eliza Carthy and Jon Boden sang In the Bleak Midwinter in 2023 on their Hudson album Glad Christmas Comes. Jon Boden noted:

One of the best loved carols of all, with good reason. A beautiful poem written by Christina Rosseti in 1872 and given this sublime setting by Gustav Holst in 1906. Eliza is particularly in love with it at the moment due to the recent rendition by Charlotte Ritchie in the BBC series “Ghosts”.


Maddy Prior sings In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, 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 midwinter 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.

Iona Fyfe sings In the Bleak Midwinter

In ’e bleak midwinter, a lang lang time ago,
Earth stood hard as iron, waater like a stone.
Snaw hid faen, snaw on snaw, snaw on snaw,
In ’e bleak midwinter a lang, lang time ago.

Whit can I gie Him, puir as I am?
Gin I were a shepherd ah wid gie a lamb
An gin I were a wise loon ah’d duly play ma pairt
Whit can ah gie him? Ah wid gie ma hairt.

In the bleak midwinter frosty wind maks mane
A’ll ne’er be a stranger and niver rove alane.
An gin that I should loose my wye an waak a darkened road
Yer licht ’ill guide me hameward, yer love fir me ye showed.