I love Christina Rossetti. Which is perhaps a little bit odd, because I tend to prefer unrhymed free verse, and if Rossetti ever wrote any unrhymed free verse I'm not aware of it. But for whatever reason, her poetry really speaks to me. That I like her so much is helpful for a project such as this, because she wrote a lot of Christmas poems, most notably "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "Love Came Down at Christmas." This one is not as well known -- probably because it hasn't been set to music, unlike "Bleak Midwinter" and "Love Came Down" -- but for my nickel it's just as good.
Incidentally, if you also are a fan of Christina Rossetti, you will want to know that another of her poems wil be featured in this space later this month. Whoo!
This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year
And still their flame is strong.
'Watchman, what of the night?' we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
'No speaking signs are in the sky,'
Is still the watchman's word.
The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
'Watchman, what of the night?' But still
His answer sounds the same:
'No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.'
One to another hear them speak
The patient virgins wise:
'Surely He is not far to seek'—
'All night we watch and rise.'
'The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.'
One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
'Friends watch us who have touched the goal.'
'They urge us, come up higher.'
'With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.'—'They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.'
There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.
We weep because the night is long,
We laugh for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept
For us, we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.
Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, 'Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.'
2 May 1858
Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)
Previous Advent posts: