In the Bleak Midwinter

I love days when the temperature is recorded in negative integers. As you can see, it's -10 here in Milwaukee this morning: 



The thought of walking into a "negative ten" environment outside delights me. But how can it be negative outside? Does the universe run backwards? Do I become younger? Do the naked trees start disappearing back into the ground? No? Well, since I was a child, I amused myself with ontological thoughts like this. How can anything BE when it's negative outside? (Perhaps this quirkiness contributed to the zero nominations I received for Homecoming Queen?)

Thanks be to God, I have the option to be inside on a day like this. I have a warm home (made warmer by the duct tape we applied around the door frames last night--the door frames which were coated in frost). I have hot coffee. I have the option to work from home rather than make my 14-year-old car brave the road to the Apostleship of Prayer offices. I even have my teacher-husband and children surrounding me today, as school has been canceled. The bottom half of my pyramid on Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been met, and I soar to the realms of creativity. Poetry and prayer call to me on this bone-chilling day. Here is a desultory list of some favorites of mine. Enjoy! And feel free to use the comment section below to add your own suggestions; we can all use some new favorites. I'm particularly interested in the kind of poetry my readers in more temperate regions favor in their "winter" months. . . .

In the Bleak Midwinter
by Christina Rossetti

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,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, 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.


by Robert Southwell, SJ

Let folly praise that fancy loves, I praise and love that child
Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand no deed defiled.

I praise him most, I love him best, all praise and love is his;
While him I love, in him I live, and cannot live amiss.

Love's sweetest mark, laud's highest theme, man's most desired light,
To love him life, to leave him death, to live in him delight.

He mine by gift, I his by debt, thus each to other due;
First friend he was, best friend he is, all times will try him true.

Though young, yet wise, though small, yet strong; though man, yet God he is:
As wise he knows, as strong he can, as God he loves to bless.

His knowledge rules, his strength defends, his love doth cherish all;
His birth our joy, his life our light, his death our end of thrall.

Alas! He weeps, he sighs, he pants, yet do his angels sing;
Out of his tears, his sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring.

Almighty Babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly,
Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die.


by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Daniel 3:57-74

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

You heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you powers, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you winds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Nights and days, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Let the earth bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.


(And this last one, from my daughter)
Muddy Feet
by Ann Urbanski 

Splashing in the wash-water, shimmying up the drying pole
Doing all the things we do
Muddy feet don't worry us

Running, laughing, fetching a ball or a stick or a toy
Working a little bit, too
Dirty hands don't worry us

What do you have in your hand? Little one?
We've found a frog
Put it in that pile of wood shavings, over there

Gentle work, gentle play
(never scolding)
There aren't enough hours in the day

Today to play 
Tomorrow to save