Christina Rossetti was remarkable. The poem I'm featuring today was sent to me by one of my dearest friends a while back. I think it's another example of her exceeding her brother's talent. It's thematically similar to some of the Willowwood sonnets crafted by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, following the death of a woman named Lizzie Siddal, his wife, who died from an addiction to laudanum, and over whom Dante felt grief and guilt. Lizzie left several sketches of herself and Dante looking into water (pools and fountains), and Dante wrote several poems using that as an image, some of which were fairly baroque and overwrought (including one in which the poet meets the reflection of his lost love in a pool). Christina, however, delivered a more finely nuanced poem than her brother, perhaps because it was slightly less personal to her (or perhaps because, as I've noted before, she was the finer artist).
An Echo From Willow-wood
by Christina Dante Rossetti
"O ye, all ye that walk in willow-wood." (D.G. Rossetti)
Two gazed into a pool, he gazed and she,
Not hand in hand, yet heart in heart, I think,
Pale and reluctant on the water's brink
As on the brink of parting which must be.
Each eyed the other's aspect, she and he,
Each felt one hungering heart leap up and sink,
Each tasted bitterness which both must drink,
There on the brink of life's dividing sea.
Lilies upon the surface, deep below
Two wistful faces craving each for each,
Resolute and reluctant without speech: —
A sudden ripple made the faces flow
One moment joined, to vanish out of reach:
So those hearts joined, and ah! were parted so.
The poem is a sonnet, written in iambic pentameter (five iambic feet per line - an iamb says "i AM" or "ta-DUM" - so, ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM), although she occasionally uses a foot that's not an iamb. It is an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. From now until the end of March 2009, you can read my article about Italian sonnets over at Kid Magazine Writers.com (and then, it goes away and is replaced with an article by my co-Meter Reader, Laura Purdie Salas). It uses the following rhyme pattern: ABBAABBACDDCDC. Being a sonnet, it contains a volta or a "turn", which occurs here in the ninth line, when she shifts to the "lilies upon the surface", and in doing so shifts from talking about the feelings of the two lovers to the items and images in the water.
There's something a heartbreaking about this poem, with all that yearning and wanting and parting, and it kinda makes me swoon a bit. (But perhaps I am simply prone to swoon.) What say you?