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Christina Rossetti's poetry fascinates me. I feel if I could really, truly, deeply understand it, then I would understand women.
Women, of course, give birth. That's a sacrifice of one's own being that we men can never fully grasp. But reading the works of Rossetti, who never wed and died childless, can bring us a little closer. Self-sacrifice, or more accurately, forbearance, is the central theme of much of her writing. Rossetti was an extremely devout woman of strong religious beliefs. Some of her best-known works, such as "A Birthday," appear at first glance to be poems of romantic love and joy, but are actually about her adoration of her Savior. Many of her other works are more overtly devotional.
But Rossetti was also blessed with a keen perception of the natural, physical, profane world, and the temptation of its pleasures. Her longest and best-known work, "Goblin Market," virtually wallows in the scent, the flavor, the sweet luscious juices of fruits expressly warned to be forbidden. Self-sacrifice and forbearance again are integral to the theme: is it worth so much to give something up, if you do not know its value to begin with?
Rossetti has been characterized as a sad poet, even a dour one, but she was also capable of some whimsy, and even winking slyness. "My Dream," an extremely puzzling allegory depicting cannabilistic crocodiles of the Euphrates battling over imperial regalia, concludes with these lines: "What does it mean? you ask. I answer not/For meaning, but myself must echo, What?/And tell it as I saw it, on the spot." No writer I know of has ever more directly challenged the reader to unravel such a riddle.Read more ›
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