Christina Rossetti

Good Friday – Christina Rossetti (An Easter Poem with analysis)

Good Friday – Christina Rossetti: a poem about Jesus’ crucifixion and the poet’s desire for a deeper response. A poem for the Easter season.

Good Friday
Christina Rossetti

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Analysis

This is an interesting all by the Christian poet Christina Rossetti.

This poem is about “Good Friday“, the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ (The Messiah).

It has four stanzas. The first stanza speaks of the poets hardened heart.  Stanza two contrast her with the women, Peter, and the thief at the crucifixion. Next, the third stanza describes even nature’s response to the crucifixion of God incarnate. Finally, in the last stanza, there is a request for Jesus to soften her heart.

Note how the first and last stanza bookend the poem with of the imagery of rock and sheep. These images of sheep are in biblical passages like Psalm 23 and John 10:11. It also uses the imagery of Moses striking the rock to bring forth water in Exodus 17:1–7. Here the analogy between water being brought forth and the poet’s tears being brought forth by the one greater than Moses is made (Hebrews 3:1-6).

This poem has an interesting line structure. Each verse is four lines. The middle two lines of each verse are 5 feet long. The first and fourth line of verses one or four and 2 feet respectively. Verse two has the first and fourth lines at 3 feet. Then verse three has them at three and 2 feet respectively. Finally, the last verse, verse four, has them both at 2 feet. In this way, the first and last verses on the whole get shorter and shorter. This speeds up the action.

The rhyme scheme is abba. That is, the first and last lines of each verse rhyme, and the middle two verses rhyme with each other.

Christian Poetry

Christmas poetry – “Christmastide” by Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was a Christian poet during the Victorian age. She was the sister of the pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Here is a poem she wrote about Christmas.

Christmastide
By Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

This poem an interesting structure. The pattern of 4/3 feet is very common like, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me.” This poem does the opposite with a 3/4 foot verse structure.

Each stanza has two of these verses sets. The first line of each of these sets is not necessarily rhymed with the first of the next one, but the second of each set is rhymed with the second of the next one. For example, in the last stanza “token” does not rhyme with “men,” but “mine” rhymes with “sign.” Note, in the first stanza the first line is repeated again as the third line. One way the first and third lines are matched each other is in each stanza the first word is the same for each of these; for example, in stanza two both lines one and three start with “Worship.”

This poem also has a different rhythm scheme than previous ones we have put up here. The previous ones have tended to be iambic (De-dum); this one is trochaic (Dum-de); the stress is on the first syllable here. Also, the first and third lines end with a feminine foot (without a stress) while the second and fourth lines of each stanza end with a stress or masculine foot. (This also shortens the second and fourth lines by one stress making the difference them longer by only one stress. This may be a way the poet was able to make this flipped line length work.)

In stanza one, God is called “Love“ and is connected with the double sign of angels and the star at his birth. This fits with the biblical teaching that “God is love“ (I John 4:8) and the signs given in the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke.

In stanza two, we worship God, but what is our sign?

Stanza three answers this question, the double sign of our love of God and all men. The Apostle John wrote that our love for each other shows that the Father has sent Jesus (John 17:21) and that we are his disciples (John 13:35). This is what Francis Schaeffer later wrote about in his little book, “The Mark of a Christian.“ Truth can be proclaimed through both poetry and apologetics.

Again, analysis of a poem is done to better understand it and enjoy it. The poem is the thing.