Christina Rosetti was a devout Christian born in London in 1830 to an extraordinarily talented family and continues to be remembered as one of the great Victorian poets. She began writing poetry at an early age, despite struggling with depression in her teenage years. During her life she turned down three offers of marriage – two of them on matters of faith – choosing a life of celibacy and singleness over marriages that could compromise her strong Christian beliefs (and one of these suitors she was apparently very much in love with). For ten years Rosetti served in a women’s shelter for unwed mothers and former prostitutes, called St. Mary Magdalene’s, before she succumbed to a serious autoimmune disease which caused her to become more reclusive until she died of cancer in 1894.
Rosetti has left the church with a beautiful, artistic legacy of poems and hymns (which I hope to do a later post on), including many which help Christians prepare their hearts and minds during advent for the coming of the King at Christmas.
This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year
And still their flame is strong.
‘Watchman, what of the night?’ we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
‘No speaking signs are in the sky,’
Is still the watchman’s word.
The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
‘Watchman, what of the night?’ But still
His answer sounds the same:
‘No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.’
One to another hear them speak
The patient virgins wise:
‘Surely He is not far to seek’ –
‘All night we watch and rise.’
‘The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.’
One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
‘Friends watch us who have touched the goal.’
‘They urge us, come up higher.’
‘With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.’ – ‘They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.’
There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.
We weep because the night is long,
We laugh for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept
For us, we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.
Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, ‘Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.’
by Christina Rosetti