Thought for the Day by Alan Griggs (St Chad’s)
Commemoration: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Christina Rossetti was born in December, died in December, an her most well-known carol is ‘In the bleak mid-winter’. Why her commemoration should be on April 27th I do not know; perhaps the days around Christmas – she died on December 29th- are a bit crowded with St. John, Holy Innocents, Thomas a’Becket and many others; so it may be better to remember her in the quieter days of Spring.
In the Bleak mid-winter, with its lovely setting by Gustav Holst, is the favourite carol of many people. It is easily understood, and the final verse, though thought a little sentimental by some, is a challenge to all Christians:
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him – give my heart.
Christina Rossetti was very popular in the Victorian period; perhaps less so today. But her brother was one of the pre-Raphaelite poets, and their Brotherhood published her poems. She came from an Italian family who had moved from Italy a few years before she was born. Her father was a Dante scholar and became Professor of Italian in London.
One of her other poems, Remember, is sometimes used at funerals:-
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of the future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve;
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Many of us have, in recent months, lost those who have been close to us. Perhaps this may encourage us to hope and to smile.