Right now I’d like to highlight a favorite poetess of mine, Christina Rossetti. I dug out her verses from among the poetry shelf in my room, and rediscovered how much I enjoy her topics and talent. Many children are introduced to her classic “Who Has Seen the Wind?” poem, although she’s also famous for “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and “Goblin Market.” Allow me the pleasure of highlighting some lines from poems I found especially poignant and quotable.

I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.

“De Profundis” highlights the inability of a mortal body to achieve celestial perfection. In this poem, I admire Rossetti’s way of describing something so heartbreaking with such soothing phrases. She doesn’t use violent words to add shock value, but instead writes something closer to a lullaby than a wild pathos.

If we should meet one day,
If both should not forget,
We shall clasp hands the accustomed way,
As when we met
So long ago, as I remember yet.

Anyone who’s been separated from friends or lovers can understand something in “Twilight Night.” This piece deals with themes of separation and longing, again using gentle, bird-like words to explain what can be emotionally brutal. I also like to think, when Rossetti writes “clasp hands the accustomed way,” she’s remembering a secret handshake she created with an old friend. She writes this poem, waiting impatiently for when they can perform it again.

While only one remembers
And all the rest forget,
- But one remembers yet.

These lines from “One Sea-Side Grave” really get me. Has even the dead man forgotten himself? Perhaps God is the only one who remembers; perhaps it’s the author. These three lines remind me that even if one person believes or does something, that’s still one. It’s still not nothing. One is an infinity beyond nothing.

And bid my home remember me
Until I come to it again.
[…]
And good they are, but not the best,
And dear they are, but not so dear.

“Shut Out” reads like a reminder of what mankind lost when we were removed from Eden. It’s like looking back at something you had (youth, wealth, relationships, or another situation) and having it locked away from you. Rossetti here makes me wonder: how can I make myself satisfied with something I have now, even if I prefer something else?

My tears were swallowed by the sea
Her songs died on the air.

“Song III” is a simple title, and a rather straightforward poem. It compares two people: one sings for hope, the other weeps for things remembered. But both end up dying. No matter what your outlook on life is, it will one day end. I think, despite the fact that both tears and songs are transient, Rossetti us optimistic about both. The tears are “swallowed,” which conveys a sort of absolution, as if the sea is absorbing one’s final sorrows. The songs, however, die. They die on the air, so although they may fizzle out, they will be breathed in again by someone.

Art is made, whether for money or self expression. Art is consumed for education, pleasure, or self pacification. The wonderful thing is that art is not a bank account: one can withdraw from art something that was never put in. The transaction between Rossetti and myself may be imperfect, but I’ll allow her to explain it all to me if we should meet one day and both shall not forget.

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