Sunday, January 6, 2013

Let's Talk About Christina Rossetti

Many people know her better than I. Who am I kidding? Everyone knows her better than I. We studied her at Jr. College. We studied her at University. But in all honesty, I don't know her very well at all. I was resistant and kind of shut down when we studied her.

You see, all my professors had the same perspective. They fawned over her religious verse, her lyrical piety. Me? Not so much. The only poem of hers I ever really knew was - surprise! surprise! - Goblin Market.

As you might imagine, this month's prompt left me a bit cold. How could possibly I write about a poet I didn't even like? What to do? What to do?

What I did was pick up my anthology, settle in with a cup of tea, and read Christina Rossetti. Surprise! I found some things I liked. In fact, I found quite a lot I liked. I recognized a sensitivity and connection to nature that I'd overlooked before, an obvious love of language, and a broad emotional range I had completely missed.

It's amazing how much state of mind can affect our interpretations. I didn't expect to see anything I liked before, so I didn't.  But when I opened my mind her gifts seemed to multiply. I'm still not enamored with all her writing, but I found much to enjoy. And even those pieces that fail to thrill me still have much to teach me.

I've chosen three poems that I enjoyed, to share with you. The images are fairly simple, but with each succeeding poem the underlying themes are more complex.

If it hadn't been for the Poetry Project I would never have given Christina Rossetti a second chance, and I'm very grateful that I did.


White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?

gull flying in front of clouds along the beach

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

A Birthday

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

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