From Christina Rosetti


Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress, and Other Poems

Christina Rossetti

Sound the deep waters:—
Who shall sound that deep?—
Too short the plummet,
And the watchmen sleep.
Some dream of effort
Up a toilsome steep;
Some dream of pasture grounds
For harmless sheep.

White shapes flit to and fro
From mast to mast;
They feel the distant tempest
That nears them fast:
Great rocks are straight ahead,
Great shoals not past;
They shout to one another
Upon the blast.

Oh, soft the streams drop music
Between the hills,
And musical the birds' nests
Beside those rills:
The nests are types of home
Love-hidden from ills,
The nests are types of spirits
Love-music fills.

So dream the sleepers,
Each man in his place;
The lightning shows the smile
Upon each face:
The ship is driving, driving,
It drives apace:
And sleepers smile, and spirits
Bewail their case.

The lightning glares and reddens
Across the skies;
It seems but sunset
To those sleeping eyes.
When did the sun go down
On such a wise?
From such a sunset
When shall day arise?

'Wake,' call the spirits:
But to heedless ears:
They have forgotten sorrows
And hopes and fears;
They have forgotten perils
And smiles and tears;
Their dream has held them long,
Long years and years.

'Wake,' call the spirits again:
But it would take
A louder summons
To bid them awake.
Some dream of pleasure
For another's sake;
Some dream, forgetful
Of a lifelong ache.

One by one slowly,
Ah, how sad and slow!
Wailing and praying
The spirits rise and go:
Clear stainless spirits
White as white as snow;
Pale spirits, wailing
For an overthrow.

One by one flitting,
Like a mournful bird
Whose song is tired at last
For no mate is heard.
The loving voice is silent,
The useless word;
One by one flitting
Sick with hope deferred.

Driving and driving,
The ship drives amain:
While swift from mast to mast
Shapes flit again,
Flit silent as the silence
Where men lie slain;
Their shadow cast upon the sails
Is like a stain.

No voice to call the sleepers,
No hand to raise:
They sleep to death in dreaming,
Of length of days.
Vanity of vanities,
The Preacher says:
Vanity is the end
Of all their ways.

You know how there are some writers, who through no fault of your own you just discover very late on, wishing you'd been aware of them somewhat earlier? Christina Rossetti is like that for me. I'd been aware of the long ballad "Goblin Market" from college years, but that was insufficient for me to want to find more. More's the pity. Well, now I share with you some of the good things I have found in recent reading.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 20, 2005 11:59 AM.

Beautiful, Touching Story at TSO's was the previous entry in this blog.

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