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was running wild
When some white ones he
nike snow green earth increased; But colour they need said he 3
“For oh they are far too pale!
He told them a whispring tale.
S. love's story supposes -
That's why they're called Blush roses
WOMAN-POET of the first work of so young a poet, they are, indeed, remarkable.
rank is among those things Those qualities which stamp the work of her maturitywhich the world has yet the quaint yet exquisite choice of words; the felicitous to produce. Even the naïvelé, more Italian than English; the delicate, unbroken, beautiful strains usual melody of the verse; the richness, almost to which float up to us from excess, of imagery—are all apparent in these first-fruits Lesbos, tell of a singer of her muse. And not less apparent are the mysticism whose lyre had few strings; and the almost unrelieved melancholy which we associate whose voice, exquisite as with Christina Rossetti's better-known poetry. Indeed, it must have been, but few there is here to be found that youthful exaggeration of notes.
sadness, that perverse assumption of the cypress, to which Only twice, I think, has a half-complacent, half-mournful poet of our own time Mrs. Browning achieved ex- has alluded cellence-in “Sonnets from the
“Our youth began with tears and sighs, Portuguese” and the “Great
With seeking what we could not find ;
Our verses were all threnodies
more or less. added to the list of poetesses with any claim to a place “ The City of the Dead," the most important poem in the first class ?
in the “ Verses,” contains many passages of great beauty, But if no woman has grown to the stature of a Dante,
and testifies throughout to the strong imagination of the a Homer, or a Shakespeare, it cannot be denied that,
writer, no less than to her power over her instrument. within the narrow limits imposed by her hitherto narrow
poem, dated as far back as 1842, is interesting ; range of vision, of emotion, of experience and oppor- it will, perhaps, be remembered by some that another tunity, woman has produced work which will bear the
woman-poet, a sweet singer, as undervalued in our day severest test. The creator of “ Come unto these Yellow
as she was overvalued in her own-Mrs. Hemans-Sands ” need not have been ashamed to acknowledge,
chose the same subject for her first poetic effort. Here Fέσπερε, πάντα φέρεις, όσα φαίνολις εοκέδας αύως ;
are Miss Rossetti's lines :nor he who sang “ Ye banks and braes of bonnie Doon,”
“ TO MY MOTHER. to claim as his own the tragedy-lyric of “Auld Robin Gray." If I may be allowed the paradox, there has
“To-day's your natal day;
Sweet flowers I bring ; been no excellent woman-poet, but much woman's poetry
Mother, accept, I pray, of excellence.
My offering. The name of Christina Rossetti stands high among the producers, of such poetry. With unusual oppor
“And may you happy live,
And long us bless ; tunities of culture, breathing from the first an atmos
Receiving, as you give, phere almost uniquely favourable to artistic production,
Great happiness." she had never to contend with those obstacles which are apt to confront her sex at the outset of a literary career.
In 1850, our poet, under the name of Ellen Alleyn, On the other hand, steeped as she must have been in
contributed several poems to the Germ, that wonderful strong and peculiar influences, she ran the risk of losing little periodical whose career, as short-lived as it was her artistic individuality. These influences, indeed, have glorious, is now a matter of history. Ellen Alleyn's left their mark on her work; but it is always her own
verses have, with one exception, been found worthy a voice--no echo-her woman's voice, curiously sweet, fan place in the latest edition of Christina Rossetti's poetry. tastically sad, which floats up to us as we listen to her “ Repining,” the longest, in some ways the most imsinging
portant, though distinctly the least réussi of them all, Miss Rossetti was born in London, in 1830, of Italian
has never, I believe, been reprinted. Vague, mystic, parents. As in the case of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, her melancholy, it contains passages stamped with the right talent was a precocious one, and as early as 1847 she
stamp. I quote a few lines, which seem to me unmis. appears as the author of a book of poenis, “Verses," tukable, coming as they do from a poet of twenty :dedicated to her nother, privately printed at the press
“What is this thing? Thus hurriedly of her grandfather, Mr. Pollidori, at 15, Park Villas
To pass into eternity; East, Regent's Park.
To leave the earth so full of mirth ; This modest little volume, which may be seen by the
To lose the profit of our birth;
To die and be no more ; to cease, curious in the Large Room of the British Museum, is
Haring numbness which is not peace." introduced by a preface from the printer, who explains that the poems are printed by his own desire. As the The italics are my own.
It was not till fifteen years after the printing of the
“ Is she fair now as she lies? “ Verses” that Miss Rossetti came before the public
Once she was fair;
Meet queen for any kingly king,
With gold-dust in her hair. other Poems," appeared in 1862, a dainty little book
Now these are poppies in her locks, enriched by two beautiful designs from the pencil
White poppies she must wear; of her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Must wear a veil to shroud her face, followed, in 1866, by “The Prince's Progress, and
And the want graven there ;
Or is the hunger fed at length, other Poems," also with two designs from the same
Cast off the care ? hand, and, in 1872, by “Sing Song," a charming book of rhymes for children ; and, in 1881, by “A Pageant, and
“We never saw her with a smile, other Poems.” Besides the little masque of the months,
Or with a frown;
Her bed seemed never soft to her, which gives its name to the book, this last volume con
Though tossed of down ; tains many poems of considerable interest, including a
She little heeded what she wore, series of Petrarchian sonnets, written from the point of
Kirtle, or wreath, or gown ; view of an imaginary Laura.
We think her white brows often ached
Beneath her crown. ... “ Had the great poetess of our own day,” says Miss Rossetti, “ been unhappy instead of happy, her circum
“Her heart sat silent through the noise stances would have invited her to bequeath is, in lieu of
And concourse of the street; the Portuguese Sonnets, an inimitable donna innominata,
There was no hurry in her hands, drawn, not from fancy, but from feeling, and worthy
No hurry in her feet;
There was no bliss drew nigh to her to occupy a niche beside Beatrice and Laura.” Few of
That she might run to meet. us, I think, would wish to have reversed the decree of Fate in this respect.
• You should have wept her yesterday, The list of Christina Rossetti's works includes, be
Wasting upon her bed:
But wherefore should you weep to-day sides those mentioned, two volumes of prose tales, and
That she is dead ?" several volumes of devotional pieces in both prose and verse. But it is with her poetry alone, and moreover But it is, perhaps, when she is least mystic, least inwith her best poetry, that I have to deal. This latter is
volved—when she is simplest, most direct, most human, undoubtedly contained in the two volumes of her maturity
that Christina Rossetti is at her best. _"Goblin Market" and "The Prince's Progress." These,
"A Royal Princess," while retaining all the writer's with but few additions or alterations, have been reprinted indescribable charm of manner, glows throughout with in one volume ; and with this volume the general reader
genuine passion ; who wishes to make acquaintance with Christina Rossetti's poetry may content himself.
“Shows a heart within, blood-tinctured of a veined humanity." “Goblin Market,” which occupies the first twenty pages of the book, is a whimsical fairy fancy, full of
It is terribly appropriate reading for these days, the heauties, yet curiously unequal. Here and there, as in
tale of the luxuriously-reared Princess whose castle is other productions of the poet, we are reminded of the
attacked by the starving mob. I quote, with reluctance magic notes which rang out for us in “ Christabel ” and
—for no quotation can give an idea of the beauty of this “Kubla Khan ;” though, indeed, the sweet music of vur
poem—the last stanzas :minstrel, weird, exotic, vaguely fascinating as it is,
"Sit and roast there with your meat, sit and bake there with tinkles faintly within sound of those mighty strains.
your bread, For “The Prince's Progress," a vaguely allegorical You who sat to see us starve,' one shrieking woman said ; poem of some length, there is not much to be said as a “Sit on your throne and roast with your crown upon your
head.' work of sustained imagination ; it contains, however, occasional felicities, and concludes with a passage of such Nay, this thing will I do, while my mother tarrieth, rare beauty that I cannot do better than quote some of I will take my fine spun gold, but not to sew therewith, it here. The Prince, who has been variously tempted to
I will take my gold and gems and rainbow fan and wreath ; linger unconscionably long on his journey to his betrothed,
“ With a ransom in my lap, a king's ransom in my hand, arrives at last at the palace to find the Princess dead
I will go down to this people, will stand face to face, will worn out by waiting. Her maidens reproach him
Where they curse king, queen, and princess of this cursed land. “ Too late for love, too late for joy, Too late, too late!
They shall take all to buy them bread, take all I have to give;
I, if I perish, perish ; they to-day shall eat and live ;
I, if I perish, perish ; that's the goal I half conceive."
In “Maude Clare ” is again apparent the dramatic
power which gives life to “ A Royal Princess.” This Slept, died, behind the grate; Her heart was starving all this while
little poem is worthy to take a place in our balladYou made it wait.
literature, the traces of whose influence it so deeply shows. In a few vivid verses we are told how the
stately Maude Clare followed her faithless lover and his which have been made familiar to us by their musical bride to the church, overwhelming the one with re- setting Nor must it be forgotten that Miss Rossetti proaches, the other with taunts :
has been among the numerous writers of our day who
have ventured frequently within the sonnet's scanty plot
think, of that supreme excellence which gives to such I wash my hands thereof.'
productions their raison-d'être.
There is a fatal fascination about sonnet-writing, to " • And what you leave,' said Nell, ' I'll take ; And what you spurn, I'll wear;
which too many of our poets have succumbed. The For he's my lord for better and worse,
critic who objected to sonnets on the ground that they And him I love, Maude Clare.
looked like bricks, was undoubtedly a crude person, but " • Yea, though you're taller by the head,
not altogether without his perceptions. Certain dramatic More wise, and much more fair,
and descriptive qualities notwithstanding, it is as a lyric I'll love him till he loves me best,
poet that Miss Rossetti must be classified ; that is to Me best of all, Maude Clare.''
say, if we are to occupy ourselves with terms and labels
in the matter. Hers is, at best, a poetic personality Only a woman could have written this poem.
difficult to grasp, difficult to classify. As with Shelley Almost perfect, in their way, are “ The Hour and the Ghost,"
and Coleridge, she is at one moment intensely human, “The Ghost's Petition,” and “Wife to
intensely personal; at another, she paddles away in her Husband.” Who that has read them can forget these lines (from the last), with their plaintive refrain ?
rainbow shell, and is lost to sight as she dips over the
horizon-line of her halcyon sea. " Blank sea to sail upon,
A fervid human spirit; a passionate woman's heart ; Cold bed to sleep in :
an imagination deep and tender ; a fancy vivid and Good-bye.
curious; is it to be wondered at that the poet in whom While you clasp, I must be gone For all your weeping:
such qualities are met should elude the hard and fast I must die.
measurements of the critic ? Her muse personities itself
for us, an elfin sprite with iridescent wings, and eyes “ A kiss for one friend,
that startle us with their mournful human gaze.
I hesitate to pronounce what should seem to be meant
for a verdict on Christina Rossetti's poetry, still less to A kindness you must do :
indulge in prophecy as to its power of resisting the I must die.
action of the waves of Time. If, indeed, the art be not Not a word for you,
always worthy of the artist; if the vessel, at times, Not a lock or kiss :
obscure the flame within ; if manner grow here and Good-bye.
there to mannerism, naïveté to bathos, subtlety to thinWe, one, must part in two;
ness; it must be remembered how delicate, how fine, Verily death is this : I must die."
how unique is that art at its best. Christina Rossetti
stands alone, as Dante Gabriel Rossetti stood alone. I should be disposed to place this group of poems--- From the branches of a wondrous tree, transplanted by “A Royal Princess,” “Maude Clare," “ The Hour and chance to our clime, we pluck the rare, exotic fruit, the Ghost,” “The Ghost's Petition,” and “ Wife to and the unfamiliar flavour is very sweet.
It is not Husband ”—very high in our literature.
And of great
here the place for criticism of the author of “The excellence are Miss Rossetti's more purely lyric poems House of Life." But of Christina Rossetti let it be --for instance, the lines beginning, “When I am dead, said that if she is not great, at least, artistically speak. my dearest," and those headed "A Birthday," both of ing, she is good.
Literary and other Notes.
BY THE EDITOR. ANUTE the Great” (George Bell and Sons), by of Pagan blood in his veins, he sets himself to the task
Michael Field, is in many respects a really remark- of becoming a great Christian governor and lawgiver to able work of art. Its tragic element is to be found in life, men; and yet he is fully conscious that, while he has not in death ; in the hero's psychological development, abandoned the noble impulses of his race, he still retains not in his moral declension or in any physical calainity; that which in his nature is most fierce or fearful. It is and the author has borrowed froin modern science the not by faith that he reaches the new creed, nor through idea that in the evolutionary struggle for existence the gentleness that he seeks after the new culture. The true tragedy may be that of the survivor. Canute, the beautiful Christian woman whom he has made queen of rough generous Viking, finds himself alienated from his his life and lands teaches him no mercy, and knows gods, his forefathers, his very dreams. With centuries nothing of forgiveness. It is sin and not suffering that