The Scent Of Music – In The Bleak Midwinter

By Tara

Our joint blogging event this Christmas has the theme of matching perfumes to festive songs. It didn’t take me long to decide to write about my favourite carol, In The Bleak Midwinter.

I grant you, it’s not the most upbeat piece of music you’ll hear during the holiday season, but I love it because it’s so atmospheric. It gives me goose bumps and makes me feel that at this time of year, anything is possible.

I recently discovered that the lyrics for In The Bleak Midwinter actually came from a poem written by the English poet Christina Rossetti in the 1800s and were first put to music, after her death, in 1906.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

4. 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.

Of course this is a Christian carol but for me its broader message is that in the midst of despair, there is still hope. Never believe that your present state of desolation will last forever. As the proverb says “The darkest hour is just before the dawn”. This is how I feel about In The Bleak Midwinter…

I am standing still, lost in the midst of an immense, dark forest in the depths of winter. Night is approaching and the cold wind chills my bones. The tall trees seem to loom over me threateningly and the distant sound of howling adds to the feeling of foreboding in my gut. The intense scent of pine fills my nose and the metallic taste of fear coats my tongue. I know that I’ll never find my way out.

Then in the next moment, the temperature rises slightly and there is a long forgotten scent in the air which triggers a sense of anticipation. Snow starts to fall, quickly settling on the ground and decorating the trees. Snow on snow, snow on snow. The beauty of it lifts my spirits and the scene gradually shifts from sinister to magical.

Once again I’m filled with the wonder I felt as a child at the first sight of snow. I start to relax. As I calmly look around, I see a small beacon of light I hadn’t noticed before, in between the branches. I head towards it, knowing with new found confidence that home isn’t as far away as I thought.

The perfume I have chosen to represent In The Bleak Midwinter – and the scene and feelings it brings up for me – is Ormonde Woman by Ormonde Jayne.


At first I found this much admired fragrance unnerving. I couldn’t get past its poisonous note of black hemlock. As time went by I began to really appreciate the rich scent of pine cones, tree sap and green undergrowth.

Then after reading Lavanya’s review on Purple Paper Planes I started to notice a spun sugar note that I’d never registered before. The more I focused on it the more it came to the fore and the black hemlock receded into the background. So Ormonde Woman has transformed itself from an eerie scent to a comfort scent, all because of a change in my perception.

You see? Miracles can happen.

Please be sure to check out the other blogs participating in this joint event.

Another Perfume Blog
Australian Perfume Junkies
Chemist in the Bottle
All I am – a Redhead
Riktig Parfym
Undina’s Looking Glass
ChickenFreak’s Obsessions
The Unseen Censer

Happy Holidays!


About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
This entry was posted in Fragrance Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to The Scent Of Music – In The Bleak Midwinter

  1. Pingback: The Scent of Music: Carol of the Bells | Undina's Looking Glass

  2. Pingback: The Scent of Music: Christmas Means Love « another perfume blog

  3. Natalie says:

    Thank you for including the lyrics, Tara! I have never registered them before, and you are right that they are beautiful. As soon as I read them, I was thinking of Ormonde Woman. 🙂 I guess it is safe to say I agree with your pairing.

    • Tara says:

      We have Birgit to thank for including the lyrics. Considering they were originally a poem they stand alone too, so it works well.

      You thought of Ormonde Woman too! We are definitely on the same wavelength 🙂

  4. Tora says:

    I always marvel at the way our perception colors our perception. A fragrance previously viewed with disdain or ennui or discomfort can become over time, a scent that we crave, we love and we would miss were it gone. We can grow as perfume lovers just as we can as persons. We can see things anew, and often with the help of our educated brethren, try those that we never would have tried. I give huge credence to the perfume community for not just broadening my scope of interest, but in also expanding my consciousness on the wider plane of all experiences.

    • Tara says:

      *Applauds loudly* Very well said, Tora!

      Perception is everything, in perfume as in life. Although it can be extremely difficult to change, it is always possible. Especially with the help of others, like you say.

  5. Tara, I love this post, so thoughtful and wise.
    You are a miracle
    Merry Christmas to the whole Olfactoria’s Travels crew.
    Portia xx

  6. Pingback: | THE SCENT OF MUSIC: Come All Ye Faithful

  7. cookie queen says:

    Tara, wonderful post.. I love In the Bleak Midwinter. It is beautiful. The one thing I really miss at Christmas here, are the vast array of Christmas carols. I keep my ear glued to BBC radio. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is perhaps at the top of my list. Have a peaceful Christmas. Hugs. Val xxxx

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Val. I don’t mind the modern Christmas songs but nothing makes me feel as in the modd as carols. I’m glad that BBC radio is filling that gap for you.

      Wishing you a very relaxing time over Christmas, too.

  8. Sandra says:

    Such a beautiful Christmas carol Tara and a wonderful perfume to go with it. Carols are one of my favorite things about the season. Merry Christmas.

  9. Jordan River says:

    O Tara, I like this carol too. Annie Lennox has an Elizabethan Christmas album called A Christmas Cornucopia which is very intense and compelling. There is a version of In The Bleak Midwinter if that interests you.

    This post is one of the few times that I can locate the exact sample from my mango tree cabinet drawers. Each drawer is the height of a standard sample and I found these hand-painted drawers at Trade Aid.
    Wafting with you now.

  10. Great writing, I love that poem, and now I really want to smell that perfume. Happy Christmas! x

    • Tara says:

      Thanks very much, Maggie.

      If and when you do get a chance to sample Ormonde Woman, do test it on skin. That makes a huge difference. The OJ discovery set is a worthwhile buy if you have any funds left over in the New Year.

      A Happy Christmas to you!

  11. Undina says:

    “snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow” – a simple but very accurate description, I like it.

    Ormonde Woman in my head isn’t a snowy forest but I like it and it feels good that you chose it.

    Birgit and Tara, Merry Christmas to both of you.

  12. Pingback: The Scent of Music: Winter Wonderland | All I am - a redhead

  13. Pingback: A Mary Christmas | The Fragrant Man

  14. Rose Strang says:

    Beautiful, my favourite Christmas Carol! Can there be a lovelier wintry line than ‘Snow had fallen snow on snow’? It conjures up such peace and stillness. I keep hearing about Ormonde Woman and haven’t tried it yet, but I definitely will now, I really like perfumes that conjure up mysterious forests

    • Tara says:

      Rose, nice to hear it’s your favourite Christmas Carol too. It has a touch of the magical about it.

      If you like perfumes that conjure up mysterious forests, I don’t think you can do better than Ormonde Woman.

  15. Pingback: The scent of music: “Lulajże, Jezuniu” | Chemist in the Bottle

  16. lucasai says:

    What a wonderful Christmas song it is. Very much in style like our Polish Christmas carols. And I love your associations with this piece of music, even though I don’t know Ormonde Woman.

    Merry Christmas to you Tara and to Birgit and both of your families.

    • Tara says:

      Thanks very much, Lucas. I’m glad you could still enjoy and appeciate the post even though you don’t know Ormondw Woman.

      I’m sure I’d like your Polish carols if they are in a similar vein.

      A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  17. Pingback: The 2013 Christmas Music of Perfumeland | The Fragrant Man

  18. Pingback: The Scent Of Music: Jingle Bells « AustralianPerfumeJunkies

  19. Olfactoria says:

    Thank you very much for this beautiful text, Tara. You struck the right mood for me, I don’t like all the forced cheer surrounding Christmas so much, for me it is also more about the darker, mystical side of it. Your carol and perfume choice are just perfect.

    • Tara says:

      Dear Birgit, as you know, I was a bit concerned about not going in the direction of the prevalent Christmas cheer but I feel similarly to you and luckily others seem to appreciate this other side of it too, which is a great.

  20. Suzanne says:

    Tara, what a moving post. I was aware of “In the Bleak Midwinter” as a poem (only because of a project I did this past year with my former 4th grade teacher), but never knew it as a Christmas carol. Having listened to it now, I can immediately see why you love its melancholic yet hopeful beauty. And though, similar to Undina, I experience Ormonde Woman a little more differently than you, I can see your connection. Lovely.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours! ❤

    • Tara says:

      Suzanne, how interesting that you knew the poem first. That must be quite unusual. I’m glad you’ve got to know the carol now. It’s a such fitting setting for the beautiful words. Melancholic yet hopeful beauty is spot on.

      A very Merry Christmas to you too. Have a lovely time with your nieces.

  21. Ines says:

    I agree, miracles can happen.
    I already wanted to tease you about your choice of song but then I saw you mentioned it yourself. 🙂
    It does make sense though, I believe after dark times, sun will shine.
    Oh, well, I’m a LotR fan after all. 😉

    • Tara says:

      Ha, yes. Quite a contrast to Winter Wonderland! That’s been the nice thing about this project though. Between us, we seem to have covered many different aspects of the Christmas season with lots of different types of music (and perfume). I do try hard to be positive and I love Christmas but I’m not a naturally “glass half full” person so this choice felt right for me.

      You’re right though, it’s ultimately about hope amidst the darkness. I should attempt the LotR series some time.

  22. Vanessa says:

    Oh, Tara, I am sooo pleased you picked this one – as soon as I heard about this project that is the carol that popped into my head – my favourite too. I think I love all things plangent and in a minor key. Really enjoyed your story of being lost in the forest, with its happy twist at the end, and Woman is the perfect accompaniment for such a foresty theme.

    • Tara says:

      Vanessa, it makes me so happy to hear that you would have picked In The Bleak Midwinter too! Cheerful Christmas songs are fun but I like anything that goes a bit deeper. Pleased you liked my little tale and the perfume pairing too.

  23. Sigrun says:

    Such a beautiful post! “The darkest hour is just before the dawn” is one of those proverbs that can’t be repeated too often! Ormonde Woman is a sub zero favorite of mine too. Ormonde Man I prefer in real bad autumn weather (but not frost).

    • Tara says:

      Thanks Sigrun! It was an inspiring project and an inspiring song.

      I agree it’s good to remember that proverb because it is so often true.

      Nice to hear Ormonde Woman is a fave of yours too when the temperature drops. Can’t believe I haven’t tried Ormonde Man yet.

  24. Pingback: O little town: The Scent of Music joint blogging event « The Unseen Censer

  25. Walter Prötzel says:

    That cute voices…
    This remember me when I lived in Europe.

  26. Lavanya says:

    What a beautiful post Tara!! The lyrics are so evocative- I must go and listen to the carol.

    And that is very interesting that you smell the spun sugar note more now. Woman smells gorgeous on your skin. Of course, now, after smelling the black hemlock in raw it is probably that which lends the spun sugar note to the perfume no? I wonder where the ‘poisonous’ note comes from.. Did you get that note from the hemlock when you smelled it at the boutique?

    • Tara says:

      Lavanya, it’s the funniest thing. I had always assumed the “poisonous” note was the black hemlock but in the boutique the oil smelt like burnt caramel! Now I have no idea what I was picking up on, maybe the grass oil?

  27. Martha says:

    I’m very impressed at your ability to paint that image with words; I can see it. And feel it. And I was reassured that I wasn’t the only one to take a darker approach.

    And, of course, now I want to try Ormonde Woman again. I wanted to like it, I intended to like it, and I was unable to. It ought to be handy in the “O” bag; I’m going to see if I can find it and try again.

    • Tara says:

      Martha, I also struggled with OJ Woman for quite a while. I do hope you manage to find a sample in your “O bag”. Perhaps it will grow on you and you will do a complete 180 like me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s