Archive for Christina Rossetti

Good Friday Break

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, Poetry with tags , , on April 2, 2021 by telescoper

Garden Update: the daffodils are done but the tulips are still going…

Well, here we are. It’s Good Friday, the start of an extra-long weekend (Friday to Monday inclusive). I’m making it a bit longer by taking a few days off next week too. It’s officially Easter break so there are no lectures next week anyway.

I need a break. This term has been exhausting, and the busiest bit is yet to come. We return for four weeks of teaching then, after a short hiatus, we’re into the examination period followed by marking, Exam Boards and all the rest. Oh and there’s the small matter of yet another virtual Open Day at the end of this month.

I’ve put out-of-office replies on my work email and won’t be attending to messages there until I get back to work at the end of next week. Part of me feels a bit guilty for doing that, but only a very small part.

As it’s a nice day, I spent a couple of hours this morning doing some remedial work in the garden. I may have a late lunch out there too as the weather is nice and I recently invested in a garden table and chairs which I have yet to use properly. If the weather holds I might get the mower out and give the lawn a trim. Judging by the constant noise this morning it seems that everyone in the neighbourhood is doing that too. Some people seem to enjoy the sound of their own lawn mowers.

Talking of which I also trimmed my beard this morning, for the first time since Christmas. I have also acquired some clippers and may actually cut the hair on my head at some point over the weekend too.

That’s enough inconsequential rambling for today. Here is a poem on the subject of Good Friday by Christina Rossetti:

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.

The Key-Note

Posted in Poetry with tags , on January 22, 2017 by telescoper

Where are the songs I used to know,
Where are the notes I used to sing?
I have forgotten everything
I used to know so long ago;
Summer has followed after Spring;
Now Autumn is so shrunk and sere,
I scarcely think a sadder thing
Can be the Winter of my year.

Yet Robin sings through Winter’s rest,
When bushes put their berries on;
While they their ruddy jewels don,
He sings out of a ruddy breast;
The hips and haws and ruddy breast
Make one spot warm where snowflakes lie
They break and cheer the unlovely rest
Of Winter’s pause – and why not I?

by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)


A Summer Wish

Posted in Poetry with tags , on June 17, 2011 by telescoper

Live all thy sweet life thro’,
Sweet Rose, dew-sprent,
Drop down thine evening dew
To gather it anew
When day is bright:
I fancy thou wast meant
Chiefly to give delight.

Sing in the silent sky,
Glad soaring bird;
Sing out thy notes on high
To sunbeam straying by
Or passing cloud;
Heedless if thou art heard
Sing thy full song aloud.

Oh that it were with me
As with the flower;
Blooming on its own tree
For butterfly and bee
Its summer morns:
That I might bloom mine hour
A rose in spite of thorns.

Oh that my work were done
As birds’ that soar
Rejoicing in the sun:
That when my time is run
And daylight too,
I so might rest once more
Cool with refreshing dew.

by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).

From Sunset to Star Rise

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on January 11, 2010 by telescoper

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.

In the Bleak Midwinter

Posted in Biographical, Cricket, Poetry, Science Politics with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2010 by telescoper

Apologies for my posts being a bit thin lately. It turned out to be quite a strange week, as I’ll explain in due course, but I thought I’d take the opportunity now to catch up a little bit. I apologize in advance for the rambling nature of this contribution, but if you read this blog regularly you’ll be used to that.

We’re all now back at work after the Christmas break, but this was always going to be an unusual week because it’s the last one before the mid-year examinations start. During this time there are revision lectures, but the timetable isn’t as full as in term-time proper, so  it’s more like a half-way house than a genuine return to full-time work. Although I’m always glad not to be thrown into full-time teaching or examination marking straight away after the break, I always find this hiatus slightly disorienting.

This year things are even stranger than usual because, after largely escaping the bad weather that has affected the rest of the country since before Christmas, snow and ice finally arrived with a vengeance in Cardiff on Tuesday night. It wasn’t too bad where I live, quite near the city centre, but a lot of snow fell up in rural areas, especially up in the valleys, with the result that quite a few members of staff couldn’t make it into work.

Talking of the weather gives me the excuse to include this absolutely beautiful picture of snow-bound Britain taken by NASA’s Earth Observatory satellite:

The problem wasn’t so much the snow itself, but the fact that the temperature dropped steeply soon after it fell leaving roads and pavements coated with sheets of ice. My regular refuse collection, scheduled for Wednesday, didn’t happen because the trucks couldn’t make it through the treacherous conditions, and buses and trains were severely disrupted. I think there’s been a similar picture across most of the United Kingdom.

Incidentally, the well-known Christmas carol from which I took the title of this post began life as a poem by Christina Rossetti, the first verse of which goes

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

I don’t know why but, as the snow was falling heavily in the early hours of Wednesday morning, I woke up with terrible stomach pains, so bad that they kept me awake all night. I assume that this was some sort of belated reaction to yuletide over- indulgence rather than anything more serious because the discomfort eventually died away and I was left with mere exhaustion after losing a whole night’s sleep. Rather than risk walking in through the snow, I retreated to bed and slept most of Wednesday although I didn’t eat or drink anything the whole day.

Columbo kept me good company during this unpleasant episode. Usually if we’re in the house at the same time he sometimes stays by my side, but he’s at other times quite happy to potter around, or sleep on his own in  a place of his choosing.  I think he knew something wasn’t right, because he never left me alone all day which is quite unusual. Alternatively, he may just have found it warmer being next to me than elsewhere. Who knows?

My guts apparently having recovered, I went into the department on Thursday for a busy day of project interviews. These are held half-way through the third year in order to assess the students progress on their projects. In between the interviews I was trying to keep up with progress on the last day of the test match between South Africa and England taking place in Cape Town, where the weather was somewhat different to Cardiff. The match had been coming to the boil, eventually ending in a draw as England’s last pair once again staved off what looked likely to be a defeat. Shades of Monty last summer! Although it was clearly a gripping finale, I’m glad in a way that I didn’t get to follow it more closely. I always get an uneasy churning feeling in my stomach during tense passages of play, and after what had happened the day before I think that was best avoided.

Yesterday (Friday) was the date of the January meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in London, and I decided to show my faith in the public transport system by making the round trip to London.  No-one can accuse me of having lost my spirit of adventure! Some trains had been cancelled, but those still running seemed to be on time and I thought the odds weren’t too bad.

The specialist Discussion Meeting featured a programme dedicated to the legacy of XMM, a highly successful X-ray satellite that has just had its funding axed by STFC. Later on, during the Ordinary Meeting there was an interesting talk by Alan Fitzsimmons about the impact of a small asteroid with the Earth that took place in October 2008,  and Matt Griffin presented some of the stunning new results from Herschel. RAS Discussion meetings are always held on the 2nd Friday of the month. Astronomical historian Alan Chapman reminded the Society that the corresponding meeting 80 years ago, on 10th January 1930,  was an important event in the development of the theory of the expanding universe.

Fully recovered from my tummy problems, I rounded the week off with a trip to the RAS Club for a nice dinner at the Athenaeum. Turnout was a bit lower than usual, presumably because of the inclement weather. This was the so-called Parish Meeting, at which various items of Club business are carried out, including the election of new members and Club officers. Professor Donald Lynden-Bell recently announced his retirement from the position of President and this was his last occasion in the Chair; the resulting Presidential Election was a close-run affair won by Professor Dame Carole Jordan. The election of new members is an archaic and slightly dotty process which always leaves me wondering how I managed to get elected myself. At one point during these proceedings the Club finds itself to be “without Officers”,  whereupon the most junior member (by length of membership rather than age) suddenly becomes important. On this occasion, this turned out to be me but since I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I fluffed it. If I’d known I might have seized the opportunity to stage a coup d’etat. Other than this, it seemed to go off without any major hitches and eventually we dispersed into the freezing night to make our ways home.

As usual on Club nights I took the 10.45pm train from Paddington to Cardiff. In the prevailing meteorological circumstances I was a bit nervous about getting home, but my fears were groundless. The train was warm and, with Ipod, Guardian and Private Eye crosswords, and the last 100 pages of a novel to occupy me, the journey was remarkably pleasant. We got to Cardiff 4 minutes ahead of schedule.