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I wish I could remember that first day
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand – Did one but know!
Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. She was born in London to Gabriele Rossetti, a painter and a political exile from Vasto, Abruzzo, and Frances Polidori, the sister of Lord Byron’s friend and physician, John William Polidori. Christina had two brothers and a sister: Dante became an influential artist and poet, and William and Maria both became writers. Christina, the youngest, was a lively child. She dictated her first story to her mother before she had learned to write.
Her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. It received widespread critical praise, establishing her as the foremost female poet of the time. Hopkins, Swinburne and Tennyson lauded her work, and with the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1861, Rossetti was hailed as her natural successor. Although Rossetti’s popularity during her lifetime did not approach that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her standing remained strong after her death. In the early 20th century Rossetti’s popularity faded in the wake of Modernism.In the 1970s, academics began to take her work seriously again, looking beyond the lyrical Romantic sweetness to her mastery of prosody and versification. Feminists promoted her as an example of neglected female genius and one of the best of the 19th-century English poets. Her work strongly influenced the work of such writers as Virginia Woolf, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Philip Larkin.
[biography adapted from Poets Foundation and Wikipedia]
Christina Rossetti by Dante Rossetti, British Library [cropped image]
Had I not read this, I would not ever have noted the connection between CR and Larkin’s poetry, but now I realize they have an immediacy, which is not the same as a simplicity, involving the reader in a way that is lacking in “My Last Duchess”, for example, where it seems to me that the reader is held off a bit.
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