Christina Rossetti had what some might call a fatalistic (and what others might call a realistic) view of our time on Earth. I thought of the following sonnet because of the phrase "twilight grey" in its final line -- an admittedly tenuous affinity with my previous post on Arthur Symons's fondness for the words "grey" and "twilight."
But there is much more afoot in Rossetti's poem than "twilight grey." I am among those who find Rossetti's view of life to be realistic, not fatalistic. On the other hand, supposing that she is indeed fatalistic, there is a great deal to be said for fatalistic beauty (accompanied by an Explanation of Life).
Vanity of vanities, the Preacher saith,
All things are vanity. The eye and ear
Cannot be filled with what they see and hear.
Like early dew, or like the sudden breath
Of wind, or like the grass that withereth,
Is man, tossed to and fro by hope and fear:
So little joy hath he, so little cheer,
Till all things end in the long dust of death.
Today is still the same as yesterday,
Tomorrow also even as one of them;
And there is nothing new under the sun:
Until the ancient race of Time be run,
The old thorns shall grow out of the old stem,
And morning shall be cold and twilight grey.
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). Lines 1-3 and 11 have their source in Chapter 1 of the Book of Ecclesiastes (King James Version).
Yes, I know, the poem may elicit a "Whew!" Perhaps it is not the thing to start the day with. But Rossetti is more adept than even world-class fatalists such as, say, Thomas Hardy or A. E. Housman (although Housman comes close to her) at delivering a grim message in a soothing fashion. To wit: "Like early dew, or like the sudden breath/Of wind." Or: "The old thorns shall grow out of the old stem." Or even this: "Till all things end in the long dust of death." (All those lovely monosyllables!) The prospect (nay, the "certainty") of our mortality has never seemed so . . . reassuring? Comforting?