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Christina Rossetti

1830–1894

On December 5, 1830, Christina Rossetti was born in London, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti; her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti also became a poet and a painter. Rossetti's first poems were written in 1842 and printed in her grandfather's private press. In 1850, under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne, she contributed seven poems to the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ, which had been founded by her brother William Michael and his friends.

Rossetti is best known for her ballads and her mystic religious lyrics, and her poetry is marked by symbolism and intense feeling. Rossetti's best-known work, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was published in 1862. The collection established Rossetti as a significant voice in Victorian poetry. The Prince's Progress and Other Poems, appeared in 1866 followed by Sing-Song, a collection of verse for children, in 1872 (with illustrations by Arthur Hughes).

By the 1880s, recurrent bouts of Graves' disease ended Rossetti's attempts to work as a governess. While the illness restricted her social life, she continued to write poems, compiled in later works such as A Pageant and Other Poems (1881). Rossetti also wrote religious prose works, such as Seek and Find (1879), Called To Be Saints (1881) and The Face of the Deep (1892). In 1891, Rossetti developed cancer, of which she died in London on December 29, 1894. Rossetti's brother, William Michael, edited her collected works in 1904, but the Complete Poems were not published before 1979.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Goblin Market, and Other Poems (Macmillan and Co., 1862)
Prince's Progress and Other Poems (Macmillan and Co., 1866)
Sing-Song: A Nursery-Rhyme Book (George Routledge & Sons, 1872)
A Pageant and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1881)
The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on The Apocalypse (Macmillan and Co., 1892)
Verses (E & J. B. Young & Co., 1893)
New Poems (Macmillan, 1896)
The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti. With Memoir and Notes & Comments. (Macmillan and Co., 1904)
Selected Poems (Macmillan, 1970)
Complete Poems (E.P. Dutton & Company, 1979)
Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti: A Variorum Edition (LSU Press, 1990)

Prose

Commonplace and Other Short Stories (F. S. Ellis, 1870)
Seek and Find (Pott, Young, & Co., 1879)
Called to be Saints: The Minor Festivals (The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1881)
Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti (Macmillan, 1998)

Letters

The Family Letters of Christina Georgina Rossetti (C. Scribner's, 1908)
Letters of Christina Rossetti: 1843-1873 (University of Virginia Press, 1997)
Letters of Christina Rossetti: 1874-1881 (University of Virginia Press, 1999)

Christina Rossetti
Portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

By This Poet

36

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.

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