Poet Christina Rossetti

English poet and author (B:1830-12-05 - D:1894-12-29)

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The Vigil Of The Feast

Inner not outer, without gnash of teeth
Or weeping, save quiet sobs of some who pray
And feel the Everlasting Arms beneath,-
Blackness of darkness this, but not for aye;
Darkness that even in gathering fleeteth fast,
Blackness of blackest darkness close to day.
Lord Jesus, through Thy darkened pillar cast,
Thy gracious eyes all-seeing cast on me
Until this tyranny be overpast.
Me, Lord, remember who remember Thee,
And cleave to Thee, and see Thee without sight,
And choose Thee still in dire extremity,
And in this darkness worship Thee my Light,
And Thee my Life adore in shadow of death,
Thee loved by day, and still beloved by night.
It is the Voice of my Beloved that saith:
“I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, I go
Whither that soul knows well that followeth”-

O Lord, I follow, little as I know;
At this eleventh hour I rise and take
My life into my hand, and follow so,
With tears and heart-misgivings and heart-ache;
Thy feeblest follower, yet Thy follower
Indomitable for Thine only sake.
To-night I gird my will afresh, and stir
My strength, and brace my heart to do and dare,
Marvelling: Will to-morrow wake the whirr
Of the great rending wheel, or from his lair
Startle the jubilant lion in his rage,
Or clench the headsman's hand within my hair,
Or kindle fire to speed my pilgrimage,
Chariot of fire and horses of sheer fire
Whirling me home to heaven by one fierce stage?
Thy Will I will, I Thy desire desire;
Let not the waters close above my head,
Uphold me that I sink not in this mire:
For flesh and blood are frail and sore afraid;
And young I am, unsatisfied and young,
With memories, hopes, with cravings all unfed,
My song half sung, its sweetest notes unsung,
All plans cut short, all possibilities,
Because my cord of life is soon unstrung.
Was I a careless woman set at ease
That this so bitter cup is brimmed for me?

Had mine own vintage settled on the lees?
A word, a puff of smoke, would set me free;
A word, a puff of smoke, over and gone:…
Howbeit, whom have I, Lord, in heaven but Thee?
Yea, only Thee my choice is fixed upon
In heaven or earth, eternity or time:-
Lord, hold me fast, Lord, leave me not alone,
Thy silly heartless dove that sees the lime
Yet almost flutters to the tempting bough:
Cover me, hide me, pluck me from this crime.
A word, a puff of smoke, would save me now:…
But who, my God, would save me in the day
Of Thy fierce anger? only Saviour Thou.
Preoccupy my heart, and turn away
And cover up mine eyes from frantic fear,
And stop mine ears lest I be driven astray:
For one stands ever dinning in mine ear
How my gray Father withers in the blight
Of love for me, who cruel am and dear;
And how my Mother through this lingering night
Until the day, sits tearless in her woe,
Loathing for love of me the happy light
Which brings to pass a concourse and a show
To glut the hungry faces merciless,
The thousand faces swaying to and fro,
Feasting on me unveiled in helplessness

Alone,-yet not alone: Lord, stand by me
As once by lonely Paul in his distress.
As blossoms to the sun I turn to Thee;
Thy dove turns to her window, think no scorn;
As one dove to an ark on shoreless sea,
To Thee I turn mine eyes, my heart forlorn;
Put forth Thy scarred right Hand, kind Lord, take hold
Of me Thine all-forsaken dove who mourn:
For Thou hast loved me since the days of old,
And I love Thee Whom loving I will love
Through life's short fever-fits of heat and cold;
Thy Name will I extol and sing thereof,
Will flee for refuge to Thy Blessed Name.
Lord, look upon me from thy bliss above:
Look down on me, who shrink from all the shame
And pangs and desolation of my death,
Wrenched piecemeal or devoured or set on flame,
While all the world around me holds its breath
With eyes glued on me for a gazing-stock,
Pitiless eyes, while no man pitieth.
The floods are risen, I stagger in their shock,
My heart reels and is faint, I fail, I faint:
My God, set Thou me up upon the rock,
Thou Who didst long ago Thyself acquaint
With death, our death; Thou Who didst long ago

Pour forth Thy soul for sinner and for saint.
Bear me in mind, whom no one else will know;
Thou Whom Thy friends forsook, take Thou my part,
Of all forsaken in mine overthrow;
Carry me in Thy bosom, in Thy heart,
Carry me out of darkness into light,
To-morrow make me see Thee as Thou art.
Lover and friend Thou hidest from my sight:-
Alas, alas, mine earthly love, alas,
For whom I thought to don the garments white
And white wreath of a bride, this rugged pass
Hath utterly divorced me from thy care;
Yea, I am to thee as a shattered glass
Worthless, with no more beauty lodging there,
Abhorred, lest I involve thee in my doom:
For sweet are sunshine and this upper air,
And life and youth are sweet, and give us room
For all most sweetest sweetnesses we taste:
Dear, what hast thou in common with a tomb?
I bow my head in silence, I make haste
Alone, I make haste out into the dark,
My life and youth and hope all run to waste.
Is this my body cold and stiff and stark,
Ashes made ashes, earth becoming earth,
Is this a prize for man to make his mark?

Am I, that very I who laughed in mirth
A while ago, a little, little while,
Yet all the while a-dying since my birth?
Now am I tired, too tired to strive or smile;
I sit alone, my mouth is in the dust:
Look Thou upon me, Lord, for I am vile.
In Thee is all my hope, is all my trust,
On Thee I centre all my self that dies,
And self that dies not with its mortal crust,
But sleeps and wakes, and in the end will rise
With hymns and hallelujahs on its lips,
Thee loving with the love that satisfies.
As once in Thine unutterable eclipse
The sun and moon grew dark for sympathy,
And earth cowered quaking underneath the drips
Of Thy slow Blood priceless exceedingly,
So now a little spare me, and show forth
Some pity, O my God, some pity of me.
If trouble comes not from the south or north,
But meted to us by Thy tender hand,
Let me not in Thine eyes be nothing worth:
Behold me where in agony I stand,
Behold me no man caring for my soul,
And take me to Thee in the far-off land,
Shorten the race and lift me to the goal.



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