Christina Rossetti’s classic Christmas carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” offers a vivid poetic look at the Incarnation. In a similar way, her less-known Advent poems describe the season of waiting and watching.
‘Come,’ Thou dost say to Angels,
To blessed Spirits, ‘Come’:
‘Come,’ to the lambs of Thine own flock,
Thy little ones, ‘Come home.’
‘Come,’ from the many-mansioned house
The gracious word is sent;
‘Come,’ from the ivory palaces
Unto the Penitent.
O Lord, restore us deaf and blind,
Unclose our lips though dumb:
Then say to us, ‘I will come with speed,’
And we will answer, ‘Come.’
You may read more about Christina Rossetti in this brief biographical sketch.
Rossetti wrote other Advent poems, most of which appear in The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, collected and edited by her brother, William Michael Rossetti.
This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year,
And still their flame is strong.
“Watchman, what of the night?” we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
“No speaking signs are in the sky,”
Is still the watchman’s word.
The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
“Watchman, what of the night?” but still
His answer sounds the same:
“No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.”
One to another hear them speak,
The patient virgins wise:
“Surely He is not far to seek,”–
“All night we watch and rise.”
“The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.”
One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
“Friends watch us who have touched the goal.”
“They urge us, come up higher.”
“With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.” “They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.”
There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.
We weep because the night is long,
We laugh, for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept
For us,–we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.
Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight,
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, “Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.”
A portion of the poem above has been set to music, which may be seen and downloaded at the Chorale Public Domain Library.
And since I mentioned it, here is a lovely rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter” by one of my favorite groups, Chanticleer.