Christina Rossetti


Dylan at Error 503: La Vita Nuova promised to blog some poetry from Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a talented painter and poet who was one of the founders and chief proponents of something called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They produced paintings like this and this. Ultimately the movement seemed to degenerate into kitsch and transmigrate into the Art Nouveau and its sister Art Deco Movements.

All that aside, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's sister, Christina was also an accomplished poet. Some consider her the most important female poet of her time. For more information about her life and times, look here. For our purposes, it is sufficient to say that in addition to the eerie, frightening, and altogether delightful "Goblin's Market" Christina Rossetti produced some of the finest religious poetry of the age. She is rivaled only by Francis Thompson (when he's on) and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Below is an example.

A Better Resurrection
Christina Rossetti

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

What I particularly like about the poem is the oblique references back to John Donne's "Holy Sonnet 14" and a number of the poems of George Herbert, all within well-crafted, relatively light verse. The other thing I like is the very strong lines and stripped down piety of the poem. It is not adorned with what we have come to think of as the trappings of classic Victorian piety.

Anyway, I eagerly await Mr. Dylan's insight into her brother's poetry.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 13, 2002 7:54 AM.

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