Monday, April 26, 2010

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti (1830—1894) was a highly acclaimed poet in her day. She was born in London, the youngest daughter of Italian poet Gabriele Rossetti, who had come to England as a political refugee. Her mother was an evangelical Anglican, who educated her children at home; all of whom became well known. Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is famous as a poet and artist. Christina modelled for many of his paintings. She was a devout Anglican who broke off an engagement because her fiancé had become a Catholic, and later rejected another man she loved because she did not believe he was a Christian.

Her poetry, like that of many Victorians, fell from fashion in the early twentieth century. Today, in some circles she may be best known for the Christmas carol “In The Bleak Mid-Winter”, with music composed by Gustavus Holst. Her thought-provoking poem “Who Has Seen The Wind” became an inspiration for W.O. Mitchell’s novel of the same name (1947). By the 1970s a resurgence of interest in her work — due to its depth and subtlety — has re-established her distinction as one of the most significant female poets of the 19th century.

A Better Resurrection

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.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca