These two lines appear at the beginning of the last stanza of "De Profundis." They are especially important because they represent Rossetti contemplating her mortal state and the resulting limitations. The poet cannot escape her physical being and laments that she is "bound," like a prisoner, constrained by the very flesh that makes her human in the first place. These two lines encapsulate Rossetti's spiritual dilemma. She feels is drawn to sublime beauty which, as a human, she can never possess. However, the paradox lies in the fact that unattainability is what makes this joy and beauty so desirable; it is unsullied.
"Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yes, beds for all who come."
This verse concludes Rossetti's poem "Up-Hill," in which she conveys the hardships that devout Christians face during their time on Earth in order to attain certain rewards in the afterlife. This verse mirrors the same pattern as the rest of the poem, as it is structured as a question succeeded by an answer, and then another question followed by another answer to that question. This verse contains the image of a weary traveler receiving just wages for his labor, a common theme in Christianity. Additionally, a resting place is available for anyone who is willing to make the journey, and this sense of repose is aided by the poem's iambic pentameter as well as the gently monosyllabic phrasing of the last two lines.
"Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago."
These two lines appear at the end of the first verse of "In the Bleak Midwinter." The poet describes a winter scene in the opening verse, and the line "Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow" adds to the wintry imagery. The repetition of "snow," and "snow on snow, snow on snow" creates musicality and emphasizes the idea that this poem should be recited as lovingly as a nursery rhyme. By repeating the opening line, "In the bleak midwinter," Rossetti attempts to entrance her reader. The phrase "long ago" presents the idea that this is a fable, or an age-old tale.
"Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad."
Typically, the last two lines of a sonnet deliver a short, condensed, and often surprising message, and this poem follows this tradition. The last two lines of Christina Rossetti's sonnet "Remember" emphasize that the narrator is trapped in a paradox. She has spent most of the poem commanding her lover to remember her after she is gone. At the end, by telling her lover to forget her, the narrator abdicates any claim to her lover and therefore, denies herself the fulfillment of her desires, a common theme in Rossetti's poetry.
"My lily feet are soiled with mud,
With scarlet mud that tells a tale
Of hope that was, of guilt that was,
Of love that shall not yet avail;
Alas, my heart if I could bare
My heart, this selfsame stain is there:
I seek the sea of glass and fire
To wash the spot, to burn the snare:
Lo, stairs are meant to lift us higher -
Mount with me, mount the kindled stair."
This segment of the first stanza of "The Convent Threshold" contains intense imagery that symbolizes hope and guilt, both of which are core tenets of Christianity. The lily is a symbol of Christ's purity. The addition of mud shows that the narrator made her journey on foot. The fact that the mud is scarlet suggests that the journey was painful and caused the narrator to bleed. The narrator then acknowledges that objects can tell stories. However, the speaker adds that the story contains "love that shall not yet avail," an idea that suggests the narrator's struggle to accept her promised redemption, as well as her disappointment that this promise is not fulfilled. Her desire to wash off the stain of her sin in a "sea of glass and fire" suggests that she knows that she has not yet finished evolving. Through the image of stairs, the narrator expresses her desire to climb above her existence as an ordinary, sinful human.
"Laura strech'd her gleaming neck -
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone."
This excerpt from "Goblin Market" marks a turning point for Laura. She is tempted by the fruit that the goblin men are advertising. Rossetti uses a string of nature- based similes to describe Laura's desire. Laura stretches her gleaming neck, one of her most vulnerable body parts, which Rossetti compares to a swan, a lily, or a branch. These objects all have two things in common: they are naturally beautiful, and naturally stuck in a certain position. Rossetti questions Laura's free will and her ability to make moral choices. The comparison of Laura to a vessel, or ship, at a launch, implies her virginity and the fact that her purity will face many threats.
"She cried 'Laura' up the garden,
'Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez'd from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.'"
This section of "Goblin Market" occurs after Lizzie saves her sister by allowing the goblin men to violate and abuse her instead. After suffering violence at the goblins' hands, Lizzie invites her sister to shower her with excessive, unrestrained affection to receive the juice that is splattered all over her. The rhyme scheme, beginning with "Did you miss me?" follows a simple AABBCC, etc. pattern. This simplicity of the rhyme scheme in Lizzie's speech echoes her earnestness and her heartfelt love for her sister. Her command to "eat me, drink me" is an allusion to Christ. In the ritual of Eucharist, Christians symbolically eat and drink the body of Christ. In this way, Lizzie is the Christ figure in the poem and Laura is the flawed, sinful mortal.
"My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me."
The first half of "Birthday" follows a pattern in which the narrator compares her heart to images from nature. The repetition of "My heart is like" is representative of the clarity and sincerity that is common in Rossetti's work. The lush images she uses in her similes reflect the influence of Pre-Raphaelite art on her poetry. Each of her chosen images contains a playful combination of movement and rest. For example, the bird is singing but also has its nest, where it can rest. The apple-tree is static, but its heavy fruit is weighing down its boughs. The rainbow shell is inanimate, yet it paddles. However, Rossetti only describes the sea as "halcyon," or extremely calm. Each of these images encompasses a sense of completeness. The singing bird will always come back to its nest; the apple-tree is fulfilled only when the apples weigh down its boughs. Therefore, the narrator's heart is only complete when his or her love is present.
"Baby lies so fast asleep
That no pain can grieve her;
Put a snowdrop in her hand,
Kiss her once and leave her."
The second half of "Baby Lies So Fast Asleep" conveys the message that accepting death is a natural part of life, which is a recurring theme in Rossetti's work. The repetition of the opening line, "Baby Lies So Fast Asleep" creates a sense of comfort and unease simultaneously. The brevity of the poem reflects the brevity of the baby's life. The snowdrop is an important symbol, because it is white and pure like the baby. The word snowdrop can also refer to a short-lived flower that blooms for a few weeks at the end of winter, which mirrors the baby's pure, brief life.
"O herald skylark, stay they flight
One moment, for a nightingale
Floods us with sorrow and delight."
In these lines from "Bird Raptures," the narrator commands the skylark to wait until morning to sing so that the nightingale can be heard at night. The nightingale's song is sublimely beautiful, flooding "us with sorrow and delight". This is the only instance in the poem where Rossetti uses the word "us," and it is unclear to whom she is referring. She only asks the skylark to wait "one moment" because she knows the night cannot last, which reflects Rossetti's belief in the transient nature of all things.
Christina Rossetti: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Christina Rossetti: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
A Chill is only three stanzas long. It speaks to motherhood, the natural instincts of nature to protect and find warmth for their children (lambs and chicks), and then to the desire the poet has to find her own.
Christina Rossetti: Poems study guide contains a biography of poet Christina Rossetti, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of select poems.