Christina Rossetti: Poems

Mother Country

(Macmillan's Magazine, March 1868.)

Oh what is that country

And where can it be,

Not mine own country,

But dearer far to me?

Yet mine own country,

If I one day may see

Its spices and cedars,

Its gold and ivory.

As I lie dreaming

It rises, that land: 10

There rises before me

Its green golden strand,

With its bowing cedars

And its shining sand;

It sparkles and flashes

Like a shaken brand.

Do angels lean nearer

While I lie and long?

I see their soft plumage

And catch their windy song, 20

Like the rise of a high tide

Sweeping full and strong;

I mark the outskirts

Of their reverend throng.

Oh what is a king here,

Or what is a boor?

Here all starve together,

All dwarfed and poor;

Here Death's hand knocketh

At door after door, 30

He thins the dancers

From the festal floor.

Oh what is a handmaid,

Or what is a queen?

All must lie down together

Where the turf is green,

The foulest face hidden,

The fairest not seen;

Gone as if never,

They had breathed or been. 40

Gone from sweet sunshine

Underneath the sod,

Turned from warm flesh and blood

To senseless clod,

Gone as if never

They had toiled or trod,

Gone out of sight of all

Except our God.

Shut into silence

From the accustomed song, 50

Shut into solitude

From all earth's throng,

Run down tho' swift of foot,

Thrust down tho' strong;

Life made an end of

Seemed it short or long.

Life made an end of,

Life but just begun,

Life finished yesterday,

Its last sand run; 60

Life new-born with the morrow,

Fresh as the sun:

While done is done for ever;

Undone, undone.

And if that life is life,

This is but a breath,

The passage of a dream

And the shadow of death;

But a vain shadow

If one considereth; 70

Vanity of vanities,

As the Preacher saith.