From Sunset to Star Rise

It was just a last-minute thought to borrow the title for a recent post from a poem by Christina Rossetti, but since doing that I’ve been thinking I should perhaps post something a bit more appropriate to the greatest female poet in England before the 20th Century. Christina Rossetti was both prolific and popular, but suffered long periods of depression and ill-health and cultivated a reclusive image until she died in 1894. Her reputation suffered after her death, and the arrival of modernism, as she was considered old-fashioned and sentimental but more recently her work has become much more widely appreciated. Much of her poetry is devotional – she was a committed and pious Anglican – and some was written especially for children. However, her love poems are often  highly erotic and somtimes express desire for women as well as men. She made a virtue of ambiguity in many aspects of her work, in fact. Other recurring themes are loneliness, loss and unattainable hope.

I bought an edition of her Selected Poems for £1 in the closing down sale at Borders bookshop just before Christmas, thinking I wouldn’t really like them, but I was taken aback by their range and complexity. I especially recommend Goblin Market, one of her best-known poems and also one of her strangest. I thought it was a bit long to put on here, however, so here’s a less well-known one, not so much because it has a vaguely astronomical title, but because its wintry theme beautifully expresses a sense of love of solitude tinged with regret.

Go from me, summer friends, and tarry not:
I am no summer friend, but wintry cold,
A silly sheep benighted from the fold,
A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.
Take counsel, sever from my lot your lot,
Dwell in your pleasant places, hoard your gold;
Lest you with me should shiver on the wold,
Athirst and hungering on a barren spot.
For I have hedged me with a thorny hedge,
I live alone, I look to die alone:
Yet sometimes, when a wind sighs through the sedge,
Ghosts of my buried years, and friends come back,
My heart goes sighing after swallows flown
On sometime summer’s unreturning track.

2 Responses to “From Sunset to Star Rise”

  1. Oh my I liked both of those poems very much. I’m not sure if I liked the sisters or the goblins better, though. I’m leaning toward the goblins I think.

  2. i liked the sisters 🙂

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