A Chilly Night

- 1830-1894

I rose at the dead of night,
     And went to the lattice alone
To look for my Mother’s ghost
     Where the ghostly moonlight shone.

My friends had failed one by one,
     Middle-aged, young, and old,
Till the ghosts were warmer to me
     Than my friends that had grown cold.

I looked and I saw the ghosts
     Dotting plain and mound:
They stood in the blank moonlight,
     But no shadow lay on the ground:
They spoke without a voice
     And they leaped without a sound.

I called: ‘O my Mother dear,’—
     I sobbed: ‘O my Mother kind,
Make a lonely bed for me
     And shelter it from the wind.

‘Tell the others not to come
     To see me night or day:
But I need not tell my friends
     To be sure to keep away.’

My Mother raised her eyes,
     They were blank and could not see:
Yet they held me with their stare
     While they seemed to look at me.

She opened her mouth and spoke;
     I could not hear a word,
While my flesh crept on my bones
     And every hair was stirred.

She knew that I could not hear
     The message that she told
Whether I had long to wait
     Or soon should sleep in the mould:
I saw her toss her shadowless hair
     And wring her hands in the cold.

I strained to catch her words,
     And she strained to make me hear;
But never a sound of words
     Fell on my straining ear.

From midnight to the cockcrow
     I kept my watch in pain
While the subtle ghosts grew subtler
     In the sad night on the wane.

From midnight to the cockcrow
     I watched till all were gone,
Some to sleep in the shifting sea
     And some under turf and stone:
Living had failed and dead had failed,
     And I was indeed alone.

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.