English poet Christina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was born in London to Gabriele Rossetti, a poet and political exile from Vasto, Abruzzo and Frances Polidori, sister of Lord Byron’s friend and physician John William Polidori.
She began signing and dating poems from 1842 and wrote a variety of romantic, devotional and children’s poems. However, she is least known for her best known works.
The poem In the Bleak Midwinter was written by Rossetti in January 1872, titled “A Christmas Carol”. In 1906 the poem was put to music by Gustav Holst, appearing in the English Hymnal and was then composed by Harold Edwin Darke in a later version now popular with choirs.
In the Bleak Midwinter has gone on to become one of the most loved and cherished hymns of all time yet Rossetti rarely gets a mention. Just a few weeks ago on a television programme about Gloucestershire (Holst’s home) a presenter explained how “the views across Gloucestershire in the winter inspired Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter”, and it’s Holst who is given credit every time the hymn is aired.
The original poem was popular with soldiers during WWI, back then Rossetti was still being credited for the work, and in WWII, King’s College Choir regularly broadcasted Darke’s version and still prefer this composition today.
Here is The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing the hymn (and crediting Holst) in more festive surroundings. It’s one of my favourites, enjoy!
Their website explains the influences behind their anthologies:
“The Urban Word Collective was born out of a dream of a shared space whereby Urban Poets could mutually promote, celebrate and inspire one another for the benefit of their communities and ultimately country. Such poets are the Bob Dylans of today and have so much to say, to add to navigating a tumultuous world. The world of poetry has never been exclusive to one tradition, rather a tree with roots that propagates, seeding for the present and future.”