“A daughter of Eve” was written by Christina Rosetti. She wrote this poem when she volunteered at a charity house. Who is the woman, this daughter of Eve, who Rossetti refers to?
About “A daughter of Eve”
Who is this Eve? Is this Rossetti herself? And why is the relation between her work as a volunteer at the St. Mary Magdalene House of Charity in Highgate (North London).
The Magdalene asylums or Magdalene laundries were institutions for ‘fallen women.’ These houses were an initiative of the Protestant Church. Later the Roman Catholic Church also opened houses such as these. They provided a home for girls and women, who had no family and who had become pregnant outside marriage, worked in prostitution or were otherwise abused. To stay in these houses, they were forced to work. Hard work. With strict regimes, it almost seemed like prisons. Yes, the girls and women could escape, but to what?
Rossetti was a volunteer in the asylum in Highgate from 1859 to 1870. It leads to her work “Goblin Market.” This is a somewhat erotic poem or could be. It depends on your interpretation. “A daughter of Eve” was also written during the period when she volunteered at St. Mary Magdalene House of Charity. It is inspired by the women she saw there.
This daughter of Eve was once raised religiously. At some point in time, she became a fallen woman. She looks back on her life and realises what she lost. She blames religion for this.
Eve is a clear reference to the Biblical figure Eve. Together with Adam, she was forced out of The Garden of Eden, when they sinned. Just like Eve, the woman in this poem became a fallen woman after she sinned.
To sleep at noon. What a wonderful idea, right? Not when it concerns this poem. No one slept till noon. Not in the charity house. Only the ones who were up all night needed to sleep till noon.
Rossetti used more metaphors to make it clear what’s it all about. Regret about what happened, sexually. Take for instance the sentence “A fool to pluck my rose too soon.” All she feels is reget and she knows it’s impossible to go back to the life she once lived.
A daughter of Eve
A fool I was to sleep at noon,
And wake when night is chilly
Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
A fool to snap my lily.
My garden-plot I have not kept;
Faded and all-forsaken,
I weep as I have never wept:
Oh it was summer when I slept,
It’s winter now I waken.
Talk what you please of future spring
And sun-warm’d sweet to-morrow:–
Stripp’d bare of hope and everything,
No more to laugh, no more to sing,
I sit alone with sorrow.
— Christina Rossetti