Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Sleeping At Last"

The funereal theme of Laurence Whistler's "A Form of Epitaph" put me in mind of a poem by Christina Rossetti.  As I have suggested previously, there is a melancholy cast to Rossetti's poetry.  She is ever aware of mortality (which is not a bad thing in my book).  The following poem is a marvel of  music, with its repetitions (it is a roundel) and its internal rhymes.

                         Sleeping at Last

Sleeping at last, the trouble and tumult over,
   Sleeping at last, the struggle and horror past,
Cold and white, out of sight of friend and of lover,
         Sleeping at last.

   No more a tired heart downcast or overcast,
No more pangs that wring or shifting fears that hover,
   Sleeping at last in a dreamless sleep locked fast.

Fast asleep.  Singing birds in their leafy cover
   Cannot wake her, nor shake her the gusty blast.
Under the purple thyme and the purple clover
         Sleeping at last.

Christina Rossetti, New Poems, Hitherto Unpublished or Uncollected (edited by William Michael Rossetti) (1896).  "Sleeping at Last" was published after Rossetti's death.  There are contending views as to whether it was the final poem written by her.  The other candidate is "Heaven Overarches." 

                     Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Christina Rossetti" (1866)

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