Today’s poem is by Christina Rossetti, sister of the pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti – I wonder if there was any sibling rivalry in that family! The poem is entitled “From Sunset to Star Rise”, and is an example of a poem whose title stands apart from the main body of the poem, where the words sunset or star rise do not appear. So there must be additional meaning in the title alone.
From Sunset to Star Rise
Go from me, summer friends, and tarry not:
I am no summer friend, but wintry cold,
A silly sheep benighted from the fold,
A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.
Take counsel, sever from my lot your lot,
Dwell in your pleasant places, hoard your gold;
Lest you with me should shiver on the wold,
Athirst and hungering on a barren spot.
For I have hedged me with a thorny hedge,
I live alone, I look to die alone:
Yet sometimes, when a wind sighs through the sedge,
Ghosts of my buried years, and friends come back,
My heart goes sighing after swallows flown
On sometime summer’s unreturning track.
I interpret the title as relating to the different parts of the poem – sunset would be equivalent to the poet’s isolation described in the first 10 lines, and the star rise would be equivalent to the last four lines where the poet begins to yearn for summer, friends and a return to humanity.
The beginning of the poem describes the poets apartness from normal human activity and concerns – she ploughs her lonely furrow “a silly sheep benighted from the fold”. It is best for normal people to avoid a poet’s company in case they get distracted from their pleasant places and their gold. The poet’s place in the world is cold and barren, isolated, but this how the poet can be creative. At the end of the poem the possibility of a return to human company is suggested, but as more of a longing than as a real possibility.
This poem Is a wonderful evocation of the otherness of great poets, and probably great geniuses in other fields.
The Poetry Dude