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Allspirit Poetry

Selected Poetry of Christina Rossetti



Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

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I took my heart in my hand
(O my love, O my love),
I said: Let me fall or stand,
Let me live or die,
But this once hear me speak
(O my love, O my love)—
Yet a woman's words are weak;
You should speak, not I.

You took my heart in your hand
With a friendly smile,
With a critical eye you scann'd,
Then set it down,
And said, 'It is still unripe,
Better wait awhile;
Wait while the skylarks pipe,
Till the corn grows brown.'
As you set it down it broke—
Broke, but I did not wince;
I smiled at the speech you spoke,
At your judgement I heard:
But I have not often smiled
Since then, nor question'd since,
Nor cared for cornflowers wild,
Nor sung with the singing bird.

I take my heart in my hand,
O my God, O my God,
My broken heart in my hand:
Thou hast seen, judge Thou.
My hope was written on sand,
O my God, O my God:
Now let thy judgement stand—
Yea, judge me now.

This contemn'd of a man,
This marr'd one heedless day,
This heart take thou to scan
Both within and without:
Refine with fire its gold,
Purge Thou its dross away—
Yea, hold it in Thy hold,
Whence none can pluck it out.

I take my heart in my hand—
I shall not die, but live—
Before Thy face I stand;
I, for Thou callest such:
All that I have I bring,
All that I am I give,
Smile Thou and I shall sing,
But shall not question much.

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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.

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The First Day

I wish I could remember the first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me;
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or winter for aught I can say.
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it! Such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow.
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much!
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand! - Did one but know!

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In an Artist's Studio

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-green,
A saint, an angel --every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

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A Daughter of Eve

     A fool I was to sleep at noon,
         And wake when night is chilly
     Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
     A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
         A fool to snap my lily.
     My garden-plot I have not kept;
         Faded and all-forsaken,
     I weep as I have never wept:
     Oh it was summer when I slept,
        It's winter now I waken.
     Talk what you please of future spring
        And sun-warm'd sweet to-morrow:--
     Stripp'd bare of hope and everything,
     No more to laugh, no more to sing,
        I sit alone with sorrow. 

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Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labor you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

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De Profundis

   Oh why is heaven built so far,
         Oh why is earth set so remote?
     I cannot reach the nearest star
         That hangs afloat.
     I would not care to reach the moon,
         One round monotonous of change;
     Yet even she repeats her tune
         Beyond my range.
     I never watch the scatter'd fire
        Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
     But all my heart is one desire,
        And all in vain:
     For I am bound with fleshly bands,
        Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
     I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
         And catch at hope. 

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   Where sunless rivers weep
     Their waves into the deep,
     She sleeps a charmed sleep:
         Awake her not.
     Led by a single star,
     She came from very far
     To seek where shadows are
         Her pleasant lot.
     She left the rosy morn,
     She left the fields of corn,
     For twilight cold and lorn
         And water springs.
     Through sleep, as through a veil,
     She sees the sky look pale,
     And hears the nightingale
         That sadly sings.
     Rest, rest, a perfect rest
     Shed over brow and breast;
     Her face is toward the west,
         The purple land.
     She cannot see the grain
     Ripening on hill and plain;
     She cannot feel the rain
         Upon her hand.
     Rest, rest, for evermore
     Upon a mossy shore;
     Rest, rest at the heart's core
         Till time shall cease:
     Sleep that no pain shall wake;
     Night that no morn shall break
     Till joy shall overtake
         Her perfect peace. 

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Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you;
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I;
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

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     Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
     Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
     Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
         Only remember me; you understand
     It will be late to counsel then or pray.
     Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
     Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad. 

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When I Am Dead, My Dearest

      When I am dead, my dearest,
         Sing no sad songs for me;
     Plant thou no roses at my head,
         Nor shady cypress tree:
     Be the green grass above me
         With showers and dewdrops wet;
     And if thou wilt, remember,
         And if thou wilt, forget.
     I shall not see the shadows,
         I shall not feel the rain;
     I shall not hear the nightingale
         Sing on, as if in pain:
     And dreaming through the twilight
         That doth not rise nor set,
     Haply I may remember,
         And haply may forget. 

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Gone For Ever

O Happy rosebud blooming 
      Upon thy parent tree, 
Nay, thou art too presuming 
For soon the earth entombing 
      Thy faded charms shall be, 
And the chill damp consuming. 

O happy skylark springing 
      Up to the broad blue sky, 
Too fearless in thy winging, 
Too gladsome in thy singing, 
      Thou also soon shalt lie 
Where no sweet notes are ringing.

And through life's shine and shower 
      We shall have joy and pain; 
But in the summer bower, 
And at the morning hour, 
      We still shall look in vain 
For the same bird and flower. 

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A Hope Carol

A Night was near, a day was near, 
      Between a day and night 
I heard sweet voices calling clear, 
      Calling me: 
I heard a whirr of wing on wing, 
      But could not see the sight; 
I long to see my birds that sing, 
      I long to see. 

Below the stars, beyond the moon, 
      Between the night and day 
I heard a rising falling tune 
      Calling me: 
I long to see the pipes and strings 
      Whereon such minstrels play; 
I long to see each face that sings, 
      I long to see. 

To-day or may be not to-day, 
      To-night or not to-night, 
All voices that command or pray 
      Calling me, 
Shall kindle in my soul such fire 
      And in my eyes such light 
That I shall see that heart's desire 
      I long to see. 

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Bird Raptures

The sunrise wakes the lark to sing, 
      The moonrise wakes the nightingale. 
Come darkness, moonrise, everything 
      That is so silent, sweet, and pale, 
      Come, so ye wake the nightingale.

Make haste to mount, thou wistful moon, 
      Make haste to wake the nightingale: 
Let silence set the world in tune 
      To hearken to that wordless tale 
      Which warbles from the nightingale. 

O herald skylark, stay thy flight 
      One moment, for a nightingale 
Floods us with sorrow and delight. 
      To-morrow thou shalt hoist the sail; 
      Leave us to-night the nightingale. 

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