Monday, August 6, 2012

Christina Rossetti

Portrait of Christina Rossetti by her brother, Dante Rossetti.

I've always loved the poetry of Christina Rosetti (In the Bleak Midwinter takes my breath away) and have used some of her poetry in both my kindergarten classroom and my ESL classroom.  One of my favorites is 

White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You  all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You  walk  away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you  go?

That is a fairly simple poem for kindergartners to memorize and for ESL learners, it's great to learn pronunciation (hill/still and blow/slow/).  Recently I have discovered some of her more complex and religious poetry.  A friend sent me this.

A Better Resurrection

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
         My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
         Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
         No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
         O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
         My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
         And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
         No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
         O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
         A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
         Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
         Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
         O Jesus, drink of me.

In this current season of transition and grief, that poem really spoke to my heart. The imagery of the broken bowl and the numb heart are powerful.
I found another Christina Rossetti poem in At the Still Point:  A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time.  It is Part V of  Later Life:  A Double Sonnet of Sonnets.

Lord, Thou Thyself art Love and only Thou;
Yet I who am not love would fain love Thee;
But Thou alone being Love canst furnish me
With that same love my heart is craving now.
Allow my plea! for if Thou disallow,
No second fountain can I find but Thee;
No second hope or help is left to me,
No second anything, but only Thou.
O Love accept, according my request;
O Love exhaust, fulfilling my desire:
Uphold me with the strength that cannot tire,
Nerve me to labor till Thou bid me rest,
Kindle my fire from Thine unkindled fire,
And charm the willing heart from out my breast.

God is love and we want to love him and yet can not without his help.

Makato Fujimura speaks of his art as a kind of visual language.  I think that poetry is a kind of heart language.  Poetry brings forth images and emotions in a way that is very unique." Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like the wild geese, as Mary Oliver would say, from an open sky. It is a magical art, and always has been -- a making of language spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dared to dream of."   Roger Housden Huffington Post 6/26/11

Take a minute and look up your favorite poet-  Take a minute and feed your soul today.

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