Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: Poems

Poems. Christina G. Rossetti. 1906. 428 pages. [Source: Bought]

I remembered enjoying Christina Rossetti's "The Goblin Market" when I was in college. Something brought it to mind the other day, and, I decided to seek it out again. I ended up choosing a chunkster volume of poetry. At first, my intentions were just to read "The Goblin Market" and perhaps a few other poems too. Before I knew it, I was halfway through the book! I read the book in three days, and I was loving every minute of it. That isn't to say that I loved each and every poem equally. But for a person who doesn't typically "like" poetry to get swept up and away by a volume of poetry, well, it says something.

The edition I read was divided into five major sections: Goblin Market and Other Poems, Devotional Pieces, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems, Devotional Pieces,  and A Pageant and Other Poems.

I loved the variety of the poems. Some poems told stories. Some were light-hearted. Some were serious. Some were reflective. Some were hopeful. Some were melancholy. Quite a handful were about death.  Some were about love: love lost or love won. Some were about nature and the seasons. One thing that modern readers might not be expecting is the volume of "sacred" or "devotional" pieces. That was a big, big bonus for me.

"Goblin Market" is a great poem, a great story. I loved it very much. I'll include a few excerpts to give you a taste of it. But essentially, it is about two sisters: Laura and Lizzie. One sister, Laura, can't resist temptation. She tastes the forbidden fruit, and it changes her forever. Lizzie slowly watches her sister decline and pine away, and she decides to act...
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheecked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;--
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
"Come buy, come buy," was still their cry.
One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Here are excerpts from a few other poems I enjoyed.

From "A Birthday"
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me. 
From "The Master Is Come, And Calleth For Thee"
Who calleth?--Thy Father calleth,
Run, O Daughter, to wait on Him:
He Who chasteneth but for a season
Trims thy lamp that it burn not dim.
Who calleth?--Thy Master calleth,
Sit, Disciple, and learn of Him:
He Who teacheth wisdom of Angels
Makes thee wise as the Cherubim,
From "Advent"
We weep because the night is long,
We laugh, for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
From "What Would I Give?"
What would I give for a heart of
flesh to warm me through,
Instead of this heart of stone
ice-cold whatever I do;
Hard and cold and small, of all
hearts the worst of all.
From "Saints and Angels"
The road to death is life, the gate of life is death,
We who wake shall sleep, we shall wax who wane;
From "Who Shall Deliver Me?"
God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.
All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out,
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.
I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys:
Myself, arch-traitor to myself;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go. 
From "Dost Thou Not Care?"
I love and love not: Lord, it breaks my heart
To love and not to love. 
From "Good Friday"
Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.
From "For Thine Own Sake, O My God"
Wearied of sinning, wearied of repentance,
Wearied of self, I turn, my God, to Thee;
To Thee, my Judge, on Whose all-righteous sentence
Hangs mine eternity:
I turn to Thee, I plead Thyself with Thee,--
Be pitiful to Me. 
From "Behold the Man!"
Shall Christ hang on the Cross, and we not look?
Heaven, earth, and hell stood gazing at the first,
While Christ for long-cursed man was counted cursed;
Christ, God and Man, Whom God the Father strook
And shamed and sifted and one while forsook:--
Cry shame upon our bodies we have nursed
In sweets, our souls in pride, our spirits immersed
In wilfulness, our steps run all a crook.
Cry shame upon us! for He bore our shame
In agony, and we look on at ease
With neither hearts on flame nor cheeks on flame:

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed a few of her poems - Good Friday is one of my favorites - but I had never thought to seek out a whole book of them. I just might do so! Thanks for your review.