A Remarkable Woman: Christina Georgina Rossetti

For Gabriele and Frances Polidori Rossetti an early Christmas present came to their London house on December 5, 1830.  Christina Georgina was the youngest child in this Rossetti family.  Maria Francesca was born February 17, 1827; Gabriele Charles Dante May 12, 1828; William Michael September 25, 1829.

Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti was a political refugee from Sicily who moved to England in 1824. He was a poet and became a professor at King’s College.

Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori was the daughter of Gaetano Polidori, an Italian exile who came to England in 1890 and was an author, teacher and printer.  She was a devoted Anglican when she married the devoted Roman Catholic Gabriele in 1826. Her four children were baptized into her church.

Frances was a well-educated woman who passed her knowledge to her children along with her love for languages—Italian and French.  Christina’s education was based on the Bible, literature, languages and basic principles of the love of life.

In many ways she is second only to Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her poetry.  She became an advocate for women forced into prostitution.  Many believe that her Goblin Market and Other Poems Collection was based on her work among the unfortunate women of the night who the stately London gentleman would visit clandestinely—the true goblins.

She had great concerns about slavery in the States and the former slaves after the Civil War.  Cruel scientific research on animals brought her to the forefront of challenging mistreatment of animals.

Two of her Christmas poems were set to music—The Bleak Midwinter and Love Came Down At Dawn.  In the first poem she asks what she could give the new born Christ—her answer was simple: “give my heart”.  In the second poem she elegantly states “love was born at Christmas”.

Unfortunately, Christina would not know the love of being a wife and mother.  Gentlemen called upon the beautiful woman, but for mostly religious reasons she rejected their offers of marriage.

Christina died from breast cancer on December 29, 1894.  April 27 is Christina’s feast day as observed by the Episcopal Church USA.

In her poem When I am dead, my dearest, she says “sing no sad songs for me”.  Christina understood that when she faded from this planet traversing the cosmos the events on earth would be unknown to her in the cosmic ocean.  “I shall not see the shadows.  I shall not feel the rain.  I shall not hear the nightingale…”

When your journey ends, may you have lived a life as remarkable as Christina.  You may not be a poet or writer, but her efforts on behalf of others, those unfortunate souls which wander on this earth, can be your legacy as well. A helping hand or a cup of water can go a long way.

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G. D. Williams       © 2012

References

http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/pr5246.a43.rad.html

http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Poetry/christmastide_poems_of_christina.htm

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/crossetti/index.html

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174269

http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s429.rap.html

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