Dream land

The contrast in the works of Christina Rossetti is impressive. At one side there are the more sexual oriented poems and on the other side there are poems such as “Dream land.” A romantic, devotional poem.

Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Image source: Wikipedia

Who was Christina Rossetti?

Christina (Georgina) Rossetti was born as a daughter of Gabriele Rossetti (1783 – 1854) and Frances Polidori (1800 –1886), on 5 December 1830. She was the youngest of four children: Maria Francesca Rossetti (1827 –1876), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), William Michael Rossetti (1829 – 1919) and Christina Georgina Rossetti.

Her father was also a poet, constitutionalist, scholar and nobleman. He founded the secret society, Carbonari. Because of his political beliefs, he was forced into exile. He was a supporter of the constitutional system. In 1824, he arrived in Londen. He married Francesca and the Rossetti family lived on Charlotte Street (nowadays Hallam Street) in London.

Even before she could write, she made up her first story. Her mother played the main role in this story. It was her mother who homeschooled Christina. To keep the family from falling into financial crisis, her mother decided to apply for a teacher’s job as of 1843. Her father couldn’t teach anymore, because of bronchitis. This made him very depressed.

Her sister became a governess and so was Christina supposed to do. Things went different though. She became engaged with the painter James Collison (1825 – 1881), but it was broken off when he reverted to Catholicism in 1850. Eventually, he would marry someone else.

In 1853 Christina helped her mother to keep a school open in Frome, but it wasn’t successful. The family fell into poverty. In 1854 her father died and the situation became even more difficult. She got another two marriage proposals. She refused them both on religious grounds.

Her fame as a poet rose when she published “Goblin Market and Other Poems” in 1862. She was hailed as the successor of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1861) by critics. The poem “Goblin Market” was more than a story of two sisters. It was an attempt to stress the importance of gender equality at a time it was nearly impossible for women to profit from the same treatment or rights as men did. It would still take a long time before there was such a thing as gender equality. This made Christina Rossetti ahead of her time.

In 1872 she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease. In 1893 she developed breast cancer. The tumour was removed, but one year later the disease reoccured. On 29 December 1894, she died. She was buried at Highgate Cemetary.

About Dream land

About “Dream land”

What is there to write about “Dream land?” A poem that describes a make-believe land, where the surroundings are perfect to go to sleep. Even the girl or woman that is described in this poem does nothing more than charmed sleeping.

Is this about sleeping or is there more? Is this perhaps something like paradise or the Garden of Eden? A peaceful place where people go once they die?

Dream land

Dream land

Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.

She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.

Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.

Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart’s core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

— Christina Rossetti

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