There seems to some confusion regarding the meaning about this song, the following meaning has been attributed to White as Snow, but I believe that the reporter confused the two songs with each other, an mistake easily made considering the names of the songs and that Winter was pulled from No Line on the Horizon.
My many thanks to Frank van Beek to helping me sort this out.
The song's melody is based on an old hymn, "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel," that, according to The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, was composed by "an unknown author, circa 1100." (Surprisingly, the original has been faithfully covered by both Sufjan Stevens and Belle & Sebastian and, less surprisingly, by Enya and 2006's BBC Young Chorister of the Year, William Dutton). The idea of a song based on the dying thoughts of a soldier initially came to Bono after he read William Golding's ambitious novel, Pincher Martin, which is told from the point of view of a British sailor who appears to have survived the torpedoing of his ship. As he approaches death, his thoughts roam back over his life, and the moral choices he made or avoided. (The novel's denouement, though, suggests that the soldier died at the moment his ship went down and that the preceding narrative recounts his soul's struggle to stay in the material world.) After watching Sam Mendes's film, Jarhead, Bono decided the song should evoke the thoughts of a soldier dying from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Intriguingly, you don't really need to know the context for the song to work. It stands alone. Initially, I had assumed it was sung in the voice of a young Middle Eastern man who had been driven into exile, but there you go.
-Sean O'Hagan, The Guardian, February 13, 2009
Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) ( 23rd of March 2009)