By Dinah Roe
This new examine specializes in the significantly overlooked zone of Rossetti's devotional poetry and her prose, supplying a serious intervention within the feminist building of an immense Victorian lady poet.
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Extra info for Christina Rossetti's Faithful Imagination: The Devotional Poetry and Prose
It seems she will share the fate of Keats’s beadsman, who ‘after thousand aves told / For aye unsought for slept among his ashes cold’ (‘The Eve of St. Agnes’, 377–8). In ‘Repining’ no peace or eternal reward is offered its subject; she is threatened rather than persuaded to abandon her sinful repining. Asceticism and detachment are the poem’s uneasy solution, as the woman requests to go home: ‘“O Lord, it is enough”’, she says, confessing, ‘“My heart’s prayer putteth me to shame; / Let me return to whence I came”’ (248–50).
Striving to reinvest poetry with religious meaning, Rossetti confronted the singular problem of how to be a devotional poet in the increasingly skeptical atmosphere of the post-Romantic age. Rossetti was not helped by the poetic vacuum caused by the early deaths of all three of her immediate predecessors: Keats, Shelley, and Byron. Instead of ignoring this seemingly unfavorable literary inheritance, Rossetti embraced the work of the Second Generation Romantics. Rather than returning directly to the religious poets of the past, Rossetti combined devotionalist ideology of the Tractarians with Romanticism’s concentration on nature, the material, the imagination, and the self.
Ultimately, however, what these living things have in common, despite their internal incongruities, is something more powerful and significant than difference: they carry the imprint of God’s love. In the final stanza, not only ‘the fairest flowers’ (18) but also ‘merest grass’ (19) and ‘Lichen ... moss and sturdy ‘Real Things Unseen’: The Tractarian Influence 23 weed’ all ‘Tell of His love who sends the dew’ (21–22). Despite the ambiguities and impurities inherent in each, Rossetti’s flowers and plants are all a testimony to God’s love.
Christina Rossetti's Faithful Imagination: The Devotional Poetry and Prose by Dinah Roe