Autumn

- 1830-1894

I dwell alone—I dwell alone, alone,
Whilst full my river flows down to the sea,
     Gilded with flashing boats
          That bring no friend to me:
O love-songs, gurgling from a hundred throats,
          O love-pangs, let me be.

Fair fall the freighted boats which gold and stone
          And spices bear to sea:
Slim gleaming maidens swell their mellow notes,
          Love-promising, entreating—
          Ah sweet but fleeting—
Beneath the shivering, snow-white sails.
     Hush! the wind flags and fails—
Hush! they will lie becalmed in sight of strand—
Sight of my strand, where I do dwell alone;
Their songs wake singing echoes in my land—
     They cannot hear me moan.

One latest, solitary swallow flies
Across the sea, rough autumn-tempest-tost:
          Poor bird, shall it be lost?
Dropped down into this uncongenial sea,
              With no kind eyes
              To watch it while it dies,
     Unguessed, uncared for, free:
              Set free at last,
              The short pang past,
In sleep, in death, in dreamless sleep locked fast.

Mine avenue is all a growth of oaks,
          Some rent by thunder strokes,
Some rustling leaves and acorns in the breeze;
          Fair fall my fertile trees,
That rear their goodly heads, and live at ease.

A spider’s web blocks all mine avenue;
He catches down and foolish painted flies,
          That spider wary and wise.
Each morn it hangs a rainbow strung with dew
          Betwixt boughs green with sap,
So fair, few creatures guess it is a trap:
          I will not mar the web,
Though sad I am to see the small lives ebb.

It shakes—my trees shake—for a wind is roused
          In cavern where it housed:
          Each white and quivering sail
     Of boats among the water-leaves
Hollows and strains in the full-throated gale:
          Each maiden sings again—
     Each languid maiden, whom the calm
Had lulled to sleep with rest and spice and balm.
     Miles down my river to the sea
              They float and wane,
           Long miles away from me.

          Perhaps they say: ‘She grieves,
Uplifted like a beacon on her tower.’
          Perhaps they say: ‘One hour
More, and we dance among the golden sheaves.
          Perhaps they say: ‘One hour
              More, and we stand,
          Face to face, hand in hand;
Make haste, O slack gale, to the looked-for land!’

          My trees are not in flower,
              I have no bower,
          And gusty creaks my tower,
And lonesome, very lonesome, is my strand.

More by Christina Rossetti

An Apple Gathering

I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple-tree
    And wore them all that evening in my hair:
Then in due season when I went to see
        I found no apples there.

With dangling basket all along the grass
    As I had come I went the selfsame track:
My neighbours mocked me while they saw me pass
        So empty-handed back.

Lilian and Lilias smiled in trudging by,
    Their heaped-up basket teased me like a jeer;
Sweet-voiced they sang beneath the sunset sky,
        Their mother's home was near.

Plump Gertrude passed me with her basket full,
    A stronger hand than hers helped it along;
A voice talked with her through the shadows cool
        More sweet to me than song.

Ah Willie, Willie, was my love less worth
    Than apples with their green leaves piled above?
I counted rosiest apples on the earth
        Of far less worth than love.

So once it was with me you stooped to talk
    Laughing and listening in this very lane:
To think that by this way we used to walk
        We shall not walk again!

I let me neighbours pass me, ones and twos
    And groups; the latest said the night grew chill,
And hastened: but I loitered, while the dews
        Fell fast I loitered still.

Remember

Remember me when I am gone away,
   Gone far away into the silent land;
   When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
   You tell me of our future that you planned:
   Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
   And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
   For if the darkness and corruption leave
   A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
   Than that you should remember and be sad.

A Christmas Carol

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.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
   Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
   When He comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
   A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
   Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
   Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
   And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
   Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
   Which adore.

Angels and archangels
   May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
   Thronged the air;
But only His mother
   In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
   With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
   Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
   I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
   I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
   Give my heart.