Dusty Quotations

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She is one of my favorite poets.

Who is Christina Rossetti?

Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830– 29 December 1894) was an English writer of romantic, devotional and children’s poems, including “Goblin Market” and “Remember”. She also wrote the words of two Christmas carols well known in Britain: “In the Bleak Midwinter“, later set by Gustav Holst, Katherine Kennicott Davis, and Harold Darke, and “Love Came Down at Christmas“, also set by Darke and other composers. She was a sister of the artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti II and features in several of his paintings.

From 1842 Rossetti began writing out and dating her poems. Most of them imitated her favoured poets. In 1847 she began experimenting with verse forms such as sonnets, hymns and ballads, while drawing narratives from the Bible, folk tales and the lives of saints. Her early pieces often meditate on death and loss in the Romantic tradition. Her first two poems published were “Death’s Chill Between” and “Heart’s Chill Between”, in the Athenaeum magazine in 1848. She used the pseudonym “Ellen Alleyne” in the literary periodical, The Germ, published by the Pre-Raphaelites from January to April 1850 and edited by her brother William. This marked the beginning of her public career.

Rossetti’s more critical reflections on the artistic movement her brother had begun were expressed in an 1856 poem “In the Artist’s Studio”. Here she reflects on seeing multiple paintings of the same model. For Rossetti, the artist’s idealised vision of the model’s character begins to overwhelm his work, until “every canvas means/the one same meaning.” Dinah Roe, in her introduction to the Penguin Classics collection of Pre-Raphaelite poetry, argues that this critique of her brother and similar male artists is less about “the objectification of women” than about “the male artist’s self-worship”.

Rossetti’s prime collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. It was widely praised by critics, who placed her as the foremost female poet of the day. She was lauded by Gerard Manley HopkinsAlgernon Swinburne and Tennyson, and on the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1861 was named her natural successor. The title poem, one of her best known, is ostensibly about two sisters’ misadventures with goblins, but critics have seen it in various ways as an allegory of temptation and salvation, a comment on Victorian gender roles and female agency, and a work of erotic desire and social redemption.

Rossetti worked voluntarily in 1859–1870 at the St Mary Magdalene house of charity in Highgate, a refuge for ex-prostitutes. It is suggested that Goblin Market may have been inspired by “fallen women” she came to know. There are parallels with Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in religious themes of temptation, sin and redemption by vicarious suffering. Swinburne in 1883 dedicated A Century of Roundels to Rossetti, as she adopted his roundel form in a number of poems, for instance in Wife to Husband. She was ambivalent about women’s suffrage, but many have found feminist themes in her work. She opposed slavery in the United States, cruelty to animals in prevalent vivisection, and exploitation of girls in under-age prostitution.

Rossetti kept a wide circle of friends and correspondents. She continued to write and publish for the rest of her life, mainly devotional work and children’s poetry. In 1892, she wrote The Face of the Deep, a book of devotional prose, and oversaw an enlarged edition of Sing-Song in 1893.

5 thoughts on “Dusty Quotations

      1. Yes, this is the reason I try to always be honest with myself bcuz I don’t want to fool myself or close the door of perspective.