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Selected Poems (Christina Rossetti)

Published onMar 06, 2024
Selected Poems (Christina Rossetti)

“After Death”

The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept

And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may

Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,

Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept.

He leaned above me, thinking that I slept

And could not hear him; but I heard him say,

‘Poor child, poor child’: and as he turned away

Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept.

He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold

That hid my face, or take my hand in his,

Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head:

He did not love me living; but once dead

He pitied me; and very sweet it is

To know he still is warm though I am cold.

“An Apple Gathering”

I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple-tree

    And wore them all that evening in my hair:

Then in due season when I went to see

        I found no apples there.

With dangling basket all along the grass

    As I had come I went the selfsame track:

My neighbours mocked me while they saw me pass

        So empty-handed back.

Lilian and Lilias smiled in trudging by,

    Their heaped-up basket teased me like a jeer;

Sweet-voiced they sang beneath the sunset sky,

        Their mother's home was near.

Plump Gertrude passed me with her basket full,

    A stronger hand than hers helped it along;

A voice talked with her through the shadows cool

        More sweet to me than song.

Ah Willie, Willie, was my love less worth

    Than apples with their green leaves piled above?

I counted rosiest apples on the earth

        Of far less worth than love.

So once it was with me you stooped to talk

    Laughing and listening in this very lane:

To think that by this way we used to walk

        We shall not walk again!

I let me neighbours pass me, ones and twos

    And groups; the latest said the night grew chill,

And hastened: but I loitered, while the dews

        Fell fast I loitered still.

“A Birthday”

My heart is like a singing bird

                  Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree

                  Whose boughs are bent with thickset 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.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;

                  Hang it with vair and purple dyes;

Carve it in doves and pomegranates,

                  And peacocks with a hundred eyes;

Work it in gold and silver grapes,

                  In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;

Because the birthday of my life

                  Is come, my love is come to me.


It is a land with neither night nor day,

Nor heat nor cold, nor any wind, nor rain,

Nor hills nor valleys; but one even plain

Stretches thro' long unbroken miles away:

While thro' the sluggish air a twilight grey

Broodeth; no moons or seasons wax and wane,

No ebb and flow are there among the main,

No bud-time no leaf-falling there for aye,

No ripple on the sea, no shifting sand,

No beat of wings to stir the stagnant space,

And loveless sea: no trace of days before,

No guarded home, no time-worn restingplace

No future hope no fear forevermore.

“Dead Before Death”

Ah! changed and cold, how changed and very cold,
With stiffened smiling lips and cold calm eyes:
Changed, yet the same; much knowing, little wise;
This was the promise of the days of old!
Grown hard and stubborn in the ancient mould,
Grown rigid in the sham of lifelong lies:
We hoped for better things as years would rise,
But it is over as a tale once told.
All fallen the blossom that no fruitage bore,
All lost the present and the future time,
All lost, all lost, the lapse that went before:
So lost till death shut-to the opened door,
So lost from chime to everlasting chime,
So cold and lost for ever evermore.


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 brimfull 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 tho’ 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

“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-greens,

A saint, an angel — every canvas means

The same one meaning, neither more or 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.

“A Pause”

They made the chamber sweet with flowers and leaves,
And the bed sweet with flowers on which I lay;
While my soul, love-bound, loitered on its way.
I did not hear the birds about the eaves,
Nor hear the reapers talk among the sheaves:
Only my soul kept watch from day to day,
My thirsty soul kept watch for one away:--
Perhaps he loves, I thought, remembers, grieves.
At length there came the step upon the stair,
Upon the lock the old familiar hand:
Then first my spirit seemed to scent the air
Of Paradise; then first the tardy sand
Of time ran golden; and I felt my hair
Put on a glory,and my soul expand.


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.

“A Triad”

Three sang of love together: one with lips

   Crimson, with cheeks and bosom in a glow,

Flushed to the yellow hair and finger tips;

   And one there sang who soft and smooth as snow

   Bloomed like a tinted hyacinth at a show;

And one was blue with famine after love,

   Who like a harpstring snapped rang harsh and low

The burden of what those were singing of.

One shamed herself in love; one temperately

   Grew gross in soulless love, a sluggish wife;

One famished died for love. Thus two of three

   Took death for love and won him after strife;

One droned in sweetness like a fattened bee:

   All on the threshold, yet all short of life.

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.

“Winter: My Secret”

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I;

Perhaps some day, who knows?

But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,

And you’re too curious: fie!

You want to hear it? well:

Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there’s none:

Suppose there is no secret after all,

But only just my fun.

Today’s a nipping day, a biting day;

In which one wants a shawl,

A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:

I cannot ope to everyone who taps,

And let the draughts come whistling thro’ my hall;

Come bounding and surrounding me,

Come buffeting, astounding me,

Nipping and clipping thro’ my wraps and all.

I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows

His nose to Russian snows

To be pecked at by every wind that blows?

You would not peck? I thank you for good will,

Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring’s an expansive time: yet I don’t trust

March with its peck of dust,

Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,

Nor even May, whose flowers

One frost may wither thro’ the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,

When drowsy birds sing less and less,

And golden fruit is ripening to excess,

If there’s not too much sun nor too much cloud,

And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,

Perhaps my secret I may say,

Or you may guess.

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