27 April Christina Rossetti, Poet, 1894

 

In the trial use book Holy Women, Holy Men today is the feast day (day of remembrance) of  Christina Rossetti.  To venerate her life, work and ministry I present a précis of her biography along with a poem (where Holy Women, Holy Men is quoted directly quotes are used) :

Christina Rossetti was ” among the more important poets of the nineteenth century”.  Her father was a professor and her mother was a devout evangelical Christian. Her eldest sister, Maria, entered an Anglican convent and her poet-painter brother, Dante, was a leading figure in the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the nineteenth century.  She suffered from poor health most of her life, being diagnosed variously with tuberculosis or angina, and led a retiring and somewhat cloistered life.  In spite of this she produced an enormous quantity of verse and was lively and ongoing (in) conversation with the members of Dante’s “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.”* She died of cancer in 1894.

Rossetti practiced her art during mid-nineteenth century England’s Industrial Revolution.  During this period the effects of industrialization “caused enormous political and cultural change and social displacement.”  Many people in England, even those benefitting from the changes, were revolted by the ugliness and misery that attended urban slums and the abandoned rural areas as well.  In response there was a nostalgic attempt to restore England’s mythic and legendary past.  There was an interest in reviving the “Medieval”, including Gothic architecture.  “Gothic” was originally a derogatory term used to describe architecture that was rude or barbaric.

Playing into this desire to return to the legendary past was the Tractarian or Oxford Movements.  One of the prime movers in this movement was the Reverend John Henry Newman an Anglican priest who eventually converted to Roman Catholicism and was created a Cardinal by the Pope.  The poem I present today was written to honor him.

” Unlike some of the Pre-Raphaelites with whom she was in relationship, Rossetti embraced Christian faith and practice. Over five hundred of her poems were devotional .  They were related to the liturgy, the feasts an fasts of the liturgical year, and to biblical “dialogues” with Christ.”

“In the grave, whither thou goest.”
O weary Champion of the Cross, lie still:
Sleep thou at length the all-embracing sleep:
Long was thy sowing day, rest now and reap:
Thy fast was long, feast now thy spirit’s fill.
Yea, take thy fill of love, because thy will
Chose love not in the shallows but the deep:
Thy tides were springtides, set against the neap
Of calmer souls: thy flood rebuked their rill.
Now night has come to thee–please God, of rest:
So some time must it come to every man;
To first and last, where many last are first.
Now fixed and finished thine eternal plan,
Thy best has done its best, thy worst its worst:
Thy best its best, please God, thy best its best.

Book: The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti

 

Notes:

  1. The group’s intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite”.  see Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Wikipedia .

 

 

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