Saturday 30 May 2009

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)


Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.
She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.
Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.
Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart's core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

Christina in a painting by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Sam Leith (Telegraph) pays tribute to Christina Rossetti

Anyone who has stood with their breath misting in an icy church late on Christmas Eve and sung 'In The Bleak Midwinter' will have a piece of Christina Rossetti in their heart.

The simplicity of her words and the rhythmic artfulness of her short lines make it one of the most haunting and intimate of all Christmas poems. The entrancing repetition – "Snow had fallen, / Snow on snow / Snow on snow" – conjures snowfall not so much by description as by imitation.

She was the younger sister of the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the critic and essayist William Michael Rossetti. It's tempting to see the Rossetti clan – with their precocious childhood journals, their melodramas and morbidity - as the Italian Bront√ęs. Christina, a pious Anglican, suffered ill health from childhood and was disappointed in love.

Her delicate and suggestive verse, with the possible exception of that one sung as a carol, suffered a long period of neglect. Its rediscovery is a cause for rejoicing. The peculiar fantasia of 'Goblin Market' is regarded by most scholars as her key work. But her short lyrics express her melancholic character with wonderful poignancy.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.


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In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.