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Christina Rossetti; the Born Poetess of Victorian Age

Updated on August 22, 2017
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Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti | Source

Singing birds, apple trees, rainbows, wind, lovebirds, butterflies, river………..

The poems of Christina Rossetti can be perceived as an expression of emotions through the artistic creations of nature. They are more alluring to the children as they love to enjoy nature, wandering. The clear and pellucid style of her verses could gloriously convey their themes and meanings to the common man that inspired him. Christina and her poems would remain immortal and new generations would accept them with heartwarming response.

Life of Christina

Christina was born to Gabriel Rossetti and Frances Polidori on 5th Dec 1830 at London. Though her parents were Italians, she was very much a London child always lively. She had two brothers and a sister. She was the youngest in the family who had inherited poetic behavior from her father, who was a poet. Christina started showing her skills even before she learned to write. She was taught by her mother and she enjoyed reading the works of Keats, Scott and other Italian writers.

In the 1840s, Christina’s family had to undergo many financial difficulties as her father fell ill. Her mother began teaching in order to run the family. Her sister Maria and her brother William started working and Dante Gabriel was going to learn painting in art school. When she was 14, Christina underwent a nervous breakdown and a course of depression followed. She had to leave school and led an isolated life which is another cause for her poetic nature. Later, she started inclining towards the religious movements that developed in the Church of England with much devotion.

Even if Christina is unmarried, she had got proposals from her friends with whom she engaged. But she refused them due to religious reasons. Her brother Dante, one of the founders of the artistic group, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood modeled her as Virgin Mary in his first oil painting. Christina pursued writing from 1842 and published her first poem in the Athenaeum in 1848. Her public life started with publication in the literary magazine, ‘The Germ’. Christina’s masterpiece ‘Goblin Market’ brought her acclaims from the critics and was declared as ‘perfect poet of the age’.

Christina volunteered herself doing charitable services from 1859 to 1870 at the St. Mary Magdalene ‘house of charity’ in Highgate, a haven for former prostitutes. In the later decades of her life, she suffered from Graves Disease. Christina Rossetti, the immortal divine poetess died on 29th Sept 1894 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.



Christina’s works emit lights of inner passion and emotions in a classic literary style. She was inclined more towards religious devotion, love, romance, death and children’s poems. Her sublime verse ‘Goblin Market’ delivers the message “love is the ultimate and love wins forever”.

Goblin Market

This long narrative poem describes the story of two sisters Laura and Lizzie. Laura gets attracted towards the sumptuous fruits of the evil goblin men who haunt the woods. Her temptation has been very well depicted in this poem.

Crouching close together In the cooling weather,

With clasping arms and cautioning lips,

With tingling cheeks and finger-tips. "Lie close,"

Laura said, Pricking up her golden head:

She succumbs to the sweet fruit offered to her. Its taste makes her mad and she starts craving for it again. But the second time, she can’t hear the goblin men’s calls as she loses her senses. Lizzie’s love towards her sister is immaculate that she forfeited everything while fighting with those evil goblin men to get a fruit for her sister Laura. Her brave resistance saves Laura and their sisterly love is narrated in captivating rhyming words. The phrase ‘forbidden fruit’ is the symbol from Bible which reveals Christina’s religious devotion. Laura’s sin and salvation also make points to that from the Bible. This poem is truly a mirror of feminism which ostensibly would have got its roots from the ‘fallen women’ of the ‘house of charity’ in Highgate.

Christmas Poems

1. In the bleak midwinter

Christina wrote this Christmas poem to be published in the magazine Scribner’s Monthly. It became a Christmas carol after her death. If the first verse describes the natural beauty of the birth place and surroundings of Jesus Christ, the second verse points it out that the heaven and earth can’t hold such a great and noble birth. The last verse reveals Christina’s humbleness as she has nothing to offer him except her heart.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

2. Love came down at Christmas

This poem is a remarkable expression of love that is conveyed during the occasion of Christmas.

Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, love divine;

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and angels gave the sign.

Children's Poems

Christina’s poems for children are very popular as children love singing them. Simple rhyming words, correlation with nature, pellucid expression are some of the characteristics that children get attracted towards them. Selecting her poems in competitions would definitely help get ranked high.

1. What is pink?

This poem teaches children how colors can be perceived. The versification and comparison with nature stand spellbinding that children can be made aware of colors effortlessly through this poem.

What is pink? a rose is pink

By the fountain's brink.

What is red? a poppy's red

In its barley bed.

What is blue? the sky is blue

Where the clouds float thro'.

What is white? a swan is white

Sailing in the light.

What is yellow? pears are yellow,

Rich and ripe and mellow.

What is green? the grass is green,

With small flowers between.

What is violet? clouds are violet

In the summer twilight.

What is orange? why, an orange,

Just an orange!

2. Caterpillar

Here Christina compares the growth of a child to that of a caterpillar with catchy rhyming words.

Caterpillar, caterpillar, crawl, crawl, crawl;

Don’t fall off the garden wall.

Caterpillar, caterpillar, eat, eat, eat;

Grow so fat on your furry feet.

Caterpillar, caterpillar, rest, rest, rest;

Soon you’ll change to be the best.

Caterpillar, caterpillar, try, try, try;

One day you’ll be the best butterfly.

3. Rainbow

This is another children's classic poem by the god-gifted Christina Rossetti. The simple and clear usage of words describe rainbow as the divine and supreme bridge built forever.

Boats sail on the rivers,

And ships sail on the seas;

But clouds that sail across the sky

Are prettier than these.

There are bridges on the rivers,

As pretty as you please;

But the bow that bridges heaven,

And overtops the trees,

And builds a road from earth to sky,

Is prettier far than these.

Christina’s birthday poem is so enchanting that she has conjured it up with poetic words of imagination. What does the bee do, Ferry me across the river, What are Heavy, The wind are some of her great works in children’s poetry.

Christina Rossetti was against the killing of animals for experimental purposes. She opposed slavery in South America and exploitation of girls. She was a true female genius of love in the 19th century.

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© 2012 Radhika Sreekanth


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