Christina Rossetti was born in 1830 and died in 1894. She was born into an Italian family in London. This was a very artistic family. Two of her brothers were painters, and she was a poet. Her father was a poet and taught at King’s College. He was a political exile from Italy, and spent his final decades in London, and Christina Rossetti would spend her entire life in England.

As Christina was turning twenty, she became engaged, but it was broken off when he converted to Roman Catholicism. She would remain single the rest of her life. Since the age of twelve, she wrote poetry. That was 1842. This was the era of Tennyson, Dickens, the Brontës, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This was the era of Victorian literature. And in that pantheon is the Anglican poet, Christina Rossetti.

Her first book of poetry was published in 1847, when she was seventeen years old. It was published by her grandfather. Her first commercially published book of poetry was published the next year, in 1848. It was later, in 1862, that her book The Goblin Market and Other Poems was published. That was probably one of her most famous poems and the book that put her on the map.

She once wrote, “How beautiful are the arms which have embraced Christ, the hands which have touched Christ, the eyes which have gazed upon Christ, the lips which have spoken of Christ, the feet which have followed Christ.” Christina Rossetti followed Christ as a poet. She loved to use similes in her poems. (You know what a simile is; it’s a comparison using like or as.)

In her poem, “A Birthday,” she uses a whole string of similes:

My heart is like a singing bird
     Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
     Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
     That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
     Because my love is come to me.

In another poem, “A Better Resurrection,” she uses two similes to talk about herself:

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

She then follows,

My life is like a broken bowl.
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Rossetti also wrote two Christmas carols and books of nonfiction, and in 1892 she wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. That same year she had surgery for cancer, and two years later, in 1894, she died in London.

Let’s hear Rossetti again:

My life is like a broken bowl.
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.