Christina Rossetti Context

Song

  • Was suffering from mental health problems at the time, poem speaks about different point of views of death, first stanza from point of view of person left behind, second stanza from person who died
  • Lines 3 to 5 - asks loved one not to plant roses at her head - relates to industrialisation and lack of nature
  • Last stanza - speaker speaks positively about death 'I shall not see the shadows' and 'I shall not feel the rain'. Links to church.
  • Poem is rare - woman is the focal point of view, usually male dominance.
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Remember

  • Queen Victoria spent last 40 years of life mourning over Albert
  • Prince Albert died a year before Remember was published
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A Birthday

  •  ‘My heart is like a rainbow shell’ – this signifies God’s promise to Noah and to mankind that the Earth will never be flooded again

  • The idea of the birthday relates to the Second Coming of Christ

  • The Second Coming of Christ is a very important factor in Christianity since it symbolises the new kingdom replacing the existing Earth

  • When she is referencing the purple throne, she is talking about the Temple of Jerusalem which is featured in the Old Testament of the bible. This throne represents God’s presence on Earth

  • ‘A water’d shoot’ has biblical references: The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs… you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11

  • ‘Doves’ – doves are used in the bible as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. A story from the bible says that a dove was sent out from Noah’s ark with an olive leaf in its beak to symbolise that the storm was over

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Echo

  • The poem is a gothic poem about a door to Paradise and how it is letting in souls, possibly loved ones

  • The door represents a door to Heaven

  • All of the souls living in Heaven have no pain and are happy and content

  • ‘Thirsting’ – she describes the eyes of the people looking at the door as ‘thirsting’ because they have an emotional thirst to be as happy and content as them

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From The Antique

  • The poem talks about how she wishes she was born a man and as a female she has a weary life. This relates to the struggles of women in the Victorian era

  • She offers different perspectives but they are overall universalized, showing that Rossetti herself does not actually support the gender movement or feminism

  • ‘From the Antique’ highlights how long there has been inequality and sets a defeated mood

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Goblin Market

  • Rossetti wrote this poem whilst working as a volunteer in 1859 at the St Mary Magdalene Penitentiary for ‘fallen women’ in Highgate

  • The themes of sisterly redemption, prostitution, sexual exchange (when Laura gives away a lock of her golden hair in order to taste the Goblins’ fruit) and temptation are arguably from Rossetti’s experience as an Associate Sister at Highgate

  • The poem was originally thought of as fairytale for children before it was sold as an adult poem

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Good Friday

  • ‘Am I a stone and not a sheep’ – she is so stone-hearted that she will get moved by the crucifixion of Christ and will not be like other worshipers who simply follow God like sheep

  • The poem is devotional, meaning that it could possibly make the religious life of the reader greater and make them more devoted to their religion

  • All of Rossetti’s devotional poems revolve around promises, prophecies and warnings found in the bible

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In The Round Tower At Jhansi

  • Captain Alexander Skene and his wife, Mrs Skene, were both killed at Jhansi Fort

  • At the first sign of danger, he ordered for all of the Christians in Jhansi to go into the fort

  • There was then a siege until the 8th of June when the rebels said that if they surrendered the fort, they would not be killed.  However, the rebels killed 56 Christians with swords

  • All of this took place during the Indian Rebellion of 1857

  • In the poem they are alone in the tower with wretches ready to kill them

  • The poem revolves around the idea of acceptance of death which would have been important to Rossetti due to her Christian faith.

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Maude Clare

  • Christina Rossetti was proposed to twice but rejected both of them

  • The structure of a secure, stable society was created through marriage. However, some women would ignore this, and those who did were considered to be dangerous to social harmony

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No Thank You John

  • William Michael wrote that John was obnoxious because he never gave the opportunity to say no thank you

  • This ‘John’ was a man who loved Christina, a marine painter

  • In the nineteenth century, it was frequently pointed out that the power of women consisted of the right of refusal

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Shut Out

  • The poem highlights the psychological consequences of exclusion such as alienation, dimmed social expectations, etc.

  • Biblical references to the idea of blindness and being shut out in that sense in the bible including Luke 14:13 and Matthew 23:16-26

  • When Adam and Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden, they became morally blind since they broke their secure relationship with God after betraying him

  • The garden is a joyous and spectacular place, however it is controlled by men. This highlights the inequalities of men and women around the time because of the idea that women are not allowed to enter the garden

  • The garden can be used to represent a woman’s freedom which she loses once she marries a man

  • The ‘iron bars’ in the poem represent the gates of Heaven and there are other biblical references such as ‘spirits’.

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Souer Louise De La Misericorde

  • French for ‘Sister Louise of Mercy’

  • Set in the Catholic movement Jansenism during 17th Century France. In this movement, renunciation was encouraged along with living according to religious manners

  • The speaker is Louise de la Valliere, a former mistress of Louis XIV, who became a nun to renounce her sins

  • The nun has desire and longing and feels as if she has completely wasted her life because of it, even though she is isolated.

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Twice

  • Women in Victorian Britain were judged by both men and God, and the speaker in the poem acknowledges this in the first stanza where she says ‘a woman’s words are weak’

  • ‘All that I have I bring, all that I am I give’ – this is what is said during a wedding and is basically saying that she is giving herself up to God since it is the only way that she can ‘live’ instead of ‘die’

  • This relates to the bible in that the method of entering a new life presented by Jesus entails ‘dying’ to the old way of living

  • The woman in the poem offered her heart to God when heartbroken. This is perhaps what Rossetti may have believed in doing since she too was very religious.

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Up-Hill

  • This is another devotional poem, therefore aiming to hopefully develop the reader’s faith further and give them religious teachings

  • ‘The very end’ symbolizes Heaven. This is another concept which would have been very important to the reader around the time as well as to Rossetti

  • The poem could be a Christian confession of sins in order for the worshiper to be able to enter Heaven

  • The different milestones in the road each appear to represent a concept in Rossetti’s life and the hardships which she has experienced.

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Winter, My Secret

  • The poem was originally titled ‘Nonsense’

  • In 1846, there was a book of ‘nonsense rhyme’ which was published by Edward Lear. The book consisted of limericks and comical poems and heavily influenced the poem

  • She decides to use this idea to tease the reader in a comical way throughout.

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