Monday, March 26, 2018

Christina Rossetti*

Christina Rossetti (1830—1894) is one of the greatest Victorian female poets — perhaps only second to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her first poetic triumph was the book Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). She is also known for her children’s poems in Sing-Song (1872). She wrote six devotional studies, the last of which The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse (1892) featured Rossetti’s verse-by-verse reflections on the Book of Revelation, and includes more than two hundred poems.

In the early 1870s she became seriously ill with Graves’ Disease. After her recovery she dedicated much of her attention to writing devotional prose. These writings reveal much of how she viewed the world as symbolic of spiritual truths; they also demonstrate her Christocentric view of scripture.

When asked about her poetic influences she wrote, “If any one thing schooled me in the direction of poetry, it was perhaps the delightful idle liberty to prowl all alone about my grandfather’s cottage-grounds some thirty miles from London.” Despite her love of nature, she lived most of her adult life in London.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon —
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Christina Rossetti: first post, second post, fourth post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.