For and By: Christina on New Year’s Eve

“It was a stark surprise of loss,”
she wrote, and then she stopped,
her hand stilled on the backlit keys
her eyes glued to the screen

where suddenly the lines misted,
metamorphosed in rain,
the world becoming watery,
a deluge full of pain.

She wiped her cheeks, she rose, she paced,
she spun about the room,
though memories of a dream-like shore
outran her pleas for peace.

Into her words she’d poured her heart,
into the poems she wrote
but from them she no longer found
the comfort that she sought.

None came but one, a fiery flare
that lit the distant sky
as if it came in search of her,
a foundling lost to claim.

“What joy is this, what Guest on high
has chosen this black night,
to show His love, to set alight
my dark and stormy heart?”

She cried, and in her joy she found
a new theme to set down
by psalm-borne winds she softly sang
of things divine, unseen.

Christina Rossetti, painting by John Brett, 1857 (Oil on canvas
Private Collection)

Old and New Year Ditties by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

1.

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had,
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road today
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

2.

Watch with me, men, women, and children dear,
You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear,
Watch with me this last vigil of the year.
Some hug their business, some their pleasure scheme;
Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream;
Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.

Watch with me, blessed spirits, who delight
All thro’ the holy night to walk in white,
Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight.
I know not if they watch with me: I know
They count this eve of resurrection slow,
And cry, “How long?” with urgent utterance strong.

Watch with me, Jesus, in my loneliness:
Tho’ others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Tho’ others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
Tonight of pain, tomorrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.

3.

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play;
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
Lo the bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay:
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.
Tho’ I tarry, wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray.
Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
Then I answered: Yea.

This poem was originally published in Goblin Market and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1862) and appears in The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti (Penguin, 2001). It is in the public domain.

I wrote the top poem in honor of Christina Rossetti whose poetry stirs readers and poets alike with their psalm-like appeal, as “Old and New Year Ditties,” on the cusp of a new year. Join us at Denise’s Six Sentence Story (using prompt word “surprise”). To my blog visitors, have a Happy New Year, one full of love and peace.

17 thoughts on “For and By: Christina on New Year’s Eve

  1. “…into her words she’d poured her heart”…it certainly feels so to me, Dora. And not only with this poem. A poem di verità, del cuore.
    Thank you, Dora.
    For writing your truth. For bringing your words with heart to this community called Six Sentence Stories.
    May I also wish to you and yours health, peace and love for every day of the New Year.

    And if you will indulge me, your last words: “divine, unseen” may find company in:
    https://spirasc.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/a-tale-of-things-invisible-to-mortal-sight/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for noticing that and the allusion, Frank. I read a Kipling poem that made me attempt the “common meter,” which apparently is one of the oldest syllabically, the alternating 8 syllable/6 syllable scheme used in many of our old hymns but also in poems/songs that give authority to the “common” voice.

      Liked by 1 person

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