Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) is the younger sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (not to be confused with Dante Alighieri who wrote The Divine Comedy). She is known for her fantasy as well as her deeply erotic poetry. This is much different from her brother whose work was deeply troubling and apocalyptic in nature. Feminist tend to focus on the works of Christina Rossetti, mainly I would gather because of her denial of two marriage proposals and lifelong abstinent from marriage. Yet, when observing her poems the erotic tones would tend to lead the reader away from those conclusions which are held by so many within the feminist movement.
The Goblins among men
Perhaps, and this is debatable, the most famous poem of Christina Rossetti is Goblin Market. If it is not the most well-known of her works it is surely one of the longest poetic creations of her. Within this poem we see the fanciful nature of the poet. Of course the Goblins are the men within this poem, which has led to much debate and sadly I believe to a slight digression in the work’s poetic nature.
If one looks at Goblin Market with a fresh perspective and keep in mind the times and the other works of the poet, the reader will see that there is a deep romantic theme that is covered throughout. There is also a very strong suggestion of the anticipated erotic/ cordial relations between the men and the women of this poem. Lastly, see the relationship between the sisters and contemplate what can be gathered from within this poem on the bond that is there and the words and actions which are spoken between the two throughout.
The complexity of this poem is so much deeper than that of mere goblins and men. Those which would skew their visions to see the poem only in such light have done themselves a great injustice. Readers should understand that Christina Rossetti has much influenced by her brother’s melancholy and dark nature as well as her family’s Anglo-Catholic beliefs. In such knowledge a new interpretation and understanding this poetic classic may emerge.
Romantic and Erotic
When reading some of the non-fanciful work of Christina Rossetti, one will see that there is a romantic and subtle eroticism within the work. In the poem A Birthday it could be interpreted that the overall message is that the woman in this poem has come of the age of adulthood. The ever so understood tie between the flowers and the lover of the field is clearly present here leading the reader to understand that the character in this poem is in a state of sexual (or at the least expectancy of such) eroticism. Could the raising of a dais of silk and down be a reference to such?
Equally as popular as Goblin Market is the poem Uphill. Where it is clear as to the interpretive meaning, there are a few interesting things to consider. To fully grasp the scope of the poem again one needs to understand the life of the poet. Being as how the poem bears strong reference to the ongoing conflict and turmoil throughout her life, one would do well to know of these struggles so as to better appreciate the poem.
From an early age Christina Rossetti was faced with the hardships of having a father with deteriorating mental and physical health, financial devastation, and a brother whose personality could be characterized as morose at the best of times. One could easily see how the writer could view life as an uphill battle.
Even though the poem is somewhat pessimistic with lines such as “Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end”, there seems to be a little bit of optimism added if but bleakly. The inn within this poem serves as the relief. It may be concluded that this is the final embrace of death, as it apparent in the closing lines containing the bed of rest. However, if one notes the “along the way” aspect of the poem, than it would appear that this is not death but a resting place before death.
Being that Christina Rossetti later converted to Catholicism, it could be interpreted that the inn is purgatory before the final judgment. This would certainly go with the theme that the rest of those before her is present.
A poet in herself
When reading the works of Christina Rossetti, we need to ensure that we do so with a poetically clear mind. By this I mean that we cannot associate the works of her brother, whether that be his poetic works or his paintings, with her. The two are separate and need to be kept as such. It is true that each most certainly influenced the other, but to tie the two together would make a creation far more menacing than any Goblin Rossetti could conjure up.