Dream Land—Christina Rossetti

I became acquainted with Christina Rossetti’s poetry while reading The Oxford Book of Christian Verse earlier this year. While her poems were written before the age of free verse, I was struck by how natural her language is—she avoids awkward word order to fit a poem’s meter or rhyme scheme. Some of her imagery is vivid, and I am also touched by the tenderness toward God that comes through her religious poems.

Our family was recently on vacation and ended up browsing a book store (as we often do). I picked up a volume of Rossetti’s poems and began reading. Much to my amusement, the first three poems in the book were about death (two involved ghosts). So I am finding Rossetti has a gloomy side, like many good poets 😉

One of the three poems about death is called “Dream Land.” With a haunting, ethereal tone, it explores the losses of a woman who has died. The rhyme and meter support the tone and draw the reader into an almost entrancing chant.

The opening lines set a somber, mysterious mood, which pervades most of the poem:

Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.

Despite this, the very end of the poem reframes death as “perfect peace” and even strikes notes of hope and resurrection:

Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

Dream Land” is a short poem—just four stanzas—but does a good job enveloping the reader in what is a surreal but ultimately optimistic meditation. Rossetti does a good job framing death as a temporary loss leading to something greater: a seed given up in hopes of a flower.

Published by mrteague

Teague McKamey lives in Washington state with his wife and two children. Teague’s poetry has appeared in several journals and in self-published books. He blogs at thevoiceofone.org and awanderingminstrel.com. In all areas of life, Teague desires that Christ may be magnified in his body (Php. 1:20).

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