Saturday 17 February 2018

Ulick O'Connor: Catholic poet who provoked upper classes

Portrait of Christina Rossetti, by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Portrait of Christina Rossetti, by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Ulick O'Connor

Christina Rossetti was one of the great English poets of the 19th century. She was a stunning beauty as well as a magnificent poet.

Christina was also something of a religious fanatic who scandalously had a crush on Catholic regalia such as incense and candles, which she would insist on being hoisted on to Protestant altars - something that didn't go down well with the upper-class English of the time.

Her brother - the poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti - was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but I don't consider that he was as good a poet as Christina.

Christina's poem below, 'Remember', has that touch of greatness which is only achieved when simplicity of language is allied to depth of artistic insight.

Her last years were sad, for her health was poor and she lost her fine looks. She never lost the run of herself though, and was modest enough to leave us this lovely sonnet.


Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti 1830-1894

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