Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, Christina Rossetti!

It can be a perplexing thing to be a woman--particularly a woman who likes to think.

I'm not entirely sure why that should be the case, but I do know that I'm not alone in my perplexity. Most women that I know have run into these same paradoxes in one form or another.

Christina Rossetti reminds me, however, that my struggles are as interior as they are universal.

Unlike me, Rossetti lived in times when there were real, tangible barriers to women's education. And yet... there she is, with her rich legacy of theological poetry. She chose the better part, and it could not be taken from her.

It would seem that I am bound, not by anything outside of myself, but by my own foolish, Eve-like tendency to listen to all the seductive snake-voices that would try to redefine me.

The solution is found, I think, in the introduction to her commentary on Revelation, in that deep fear of God that makes all other anxieties irrelevant.

"Teach us, O Lord, to fear Thee without terror, and to trust Thee without misgiving: to fear Thee with love, until it shall please Thee that we should love Thee without fear."

And now for a few of my favorite Rossetti poems:

A Daughter of Eve
by Christina Rossetti

A fool I was to sleep at noon,
         And wake when night is chilly
Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
         A fool to snap my lily.

My garden-plot I have not kept;
         Faded and all-forsaken,
I weep as I have never wept:
Oh it was summer when I slept,
         It's winter now I waken.

Talk what you please of future spring
         And sun-warm'd sweet to-morrow:—
Stripp'd bare of hope and everything,
No more to laugh, no more to sing,
         I sit alone with sorrow.


Rossetti asks all the right questions, and she asks them with such honest fear and trembling, that when she finds joy--and she does!--it resonates in my soul with certainty and hope.

A Birthday
by Christina Rossetti

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 thickset 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 dais 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.

1 comment:

  1. Such a joy to find someone with a deep appreciation of Rossetti! Although I missed seeing this on the actual day, I like that I now have her birthday in my mind.