Victorian poet Christina Rossetti was well-known for her ability to craft poetry that remains at once deeply philosophical, yet fully accessible to many readers. Oftentimes, her religious themes and fascination with the ephemerality of experience are rendered in simple, song-like verse, as is the case with her famous collection of poems Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book published in 1893. While the casual reader might pass off this collection of rhymes as pandering to juvenile questions, some extra attention to these poems reveals a writer whose fascination with the universe, natural change, and the place of humanity stands out as remarkable.
Among the many song-like poems in this collection is the still-famous “Who has seen the wind?” Here, Rossetti masterfully delivers a tight poem of two stanzas, which functions as both a children’s nursery rhyme and a philosophical exploration of the sublime. When asking “Who has seen the wind?” the poem implies that no one, not even the trees, have fully witnessed the terrifying, yet ephemeral power of nature.
For someone so captivated by ephemerality, it is ironic that Rossetti has gained popularity after her death. During her life, she was overshadowed by poets of such huge stature as her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Since then, however, the strength of her poetry has been revealed by its continued power and influence. Though earlier relegated to the status of "just another pre-Raphaelite," her work experienced a resurgence in the 1970s when the French and American feminist movements began unearthing the impact Rossetti had on famous writers like Virginia Woolf.
"Who Has Seen The Wind?" is one of eight of the Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book poems that were set to music in 1918, by John Ireland, who included it in his song cycle "Mother and Child."