Christina Rossetti, A Classic Poet Not Often Heard, Celebrates a Birthday

A poet whose writings meant a lot to me this year is Christina Rossetti. Born in London the same year as Emily Dickinson in 1830, she was of British and Italian heritage, wrote just a few questioning, romantic, sassy poems, along with her better known childrens’ rhyme in a book called Goblin Market, and was both raised by an Italian Catholic exile father and an Anglican British mother. Her brother was famous poet and painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

There is plenty of contrast from poem to poem, including conservative text to more sensual text, confessional to decisive, children’s rhymes or more adult-like subjects, and a background of both Roman Catholic and Anglican Christianity. Even with these ‘apparent contradictions,’ I felt relief reading Christina’s poetry that was feeling like she was happy to write it, was very much herself, get it off her chest in a way that is really beautiful…
Also a happy belated birthday to 19th century poet Christina Rossetti on December 5th!

poem by Christina Rossetti for her birthday

A ROSE has thorns as well as honey,
I’ll not have her for love or money;
An iris grows so straight and fine
That she shall be no friend of mine;
Snowdrops like the snow would chill me;
Nightshade would caress and kill me;
Crocus like a spear would fright me;
Dragon’s-mouth might bark or bite me;
Convolvulus but blooms to die;
A wind-flower suggests a sigh;
Love-lies-bleeding makes me sad;
And poppy-juice would drive me mad: –
But give me holly, bold and jolly,
Honest, prickly, shining holly;
Pluck me holly leaf and berry
For the day when I make merry.

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