Christina Rossetti 1830-1894
Roses and seasons and religious content abound in many of the shorter poems I have gone through, along with love and mortality. I often like to choose the ‘nature’ elements and she wrote many but here I have found and included some of the overall sadness I picked up from my reading. There are, happier, brighter words in her output. Her short poems, and the long, are all worth reading and offer lines for thought on her life. I do feel her poetry was somewhat ‘held’ within her Victorian background and family. She did not break free of the stylistic ranges of the day, however the contents have a depth that is remarkable. As a poet Christina Rossetti was very successful in her day and has retained a respectful position as a poet not just in the realms of feminism. I should spend more time, I know, but I am a ‘passer-by’ to her life and poetry for the moment. I will venture on, intending to return.
Seealso poem: ‘Goblin Market’,
websites: poem hunter
I sigh at day-dawn, and I sigh
When the dull day is passing by.
I sigh at evening, and again
I sigh when night brings sleep to men.
Oh! it were far better to die
Than thus forever mourn and sigh,
And in death’s dreamless sleep to be
Unconscious that none weep for me;
Eased from my weight of heaviness,
Forgetful of forgetfulness,
Resting from care and pain and sorrow
Thro’ the long night that knows no morrow;
Living unloved, to die unknown,
Unwept, untended, and alone.
‘A cup for hope!’ she said,
In springtime ere the bloom was old:
The crimson wine was poor and cold
By her mouth’s richer red.
‘A cup for love!’ how low,
How soft the words; and all the while
Her blush was rippling with a smile
Like summer after snow.
‘A cup for memory!’
Cold cup that one must drain alone:
While autumn winds are up and moan
Across the barren sea.
Hope, memory, love:
Hope for fair morn, and love for day,
And memory for the evening grey
And solitary dove.
What Would I Give
What would I give for a heart of flesh to warm me through,
Instead of this heart of stone ice-cold whatever I do!
Hard and cold and small, of all hearts the worst of all.
What would I give for words, if only words would come!
But now in its misery my spirit has fallen dumb.
O merry friends, go your own way, I have never a word to say.
What would I give for tears! Not smiles but scalding tears,
To wash the black mark clean, and to thaw the frost of years,
To wash the stain ingrain, and to make me clean again.
Winter: My Secret
I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows, and snows,
And you’re too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.
Or, after all, perhaps there’s none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today’s a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to every one who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro’ my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro’ my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave that truth untested still.
Spring’s and expansive time: yet I don’t trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro’ the sunless hours.
Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there’s not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess.
In an Artist’s Studio
One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel — every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.