“Symbols”: A Poem by Christina Rossetti

I watched a rosebud very long

     Brought on by dew and sun and shower,

     Waiting to see the perfect flower:

Then, when I thought it should be strong,

     It opened at the matin hour

And fell at evensong.


I watched a nest from day to day,

     A green nest full of peasant shade,

     Wherein three speckled eggs were laid:

But when they should have hatched in May,

     The two old birds had grown afraid

Or tired, and flew away.


Then, in my wrath I broke the bough

     That I had tended so with care,

     Hoping its scent should fill the air;

I crushed the eggs, not heeding how

     Their ancient promise had been fair:

I would have vengence now.


But the dead branch spoke from the sod,

     And the eggs answered me again:

     Because we failed dost thou complain?

Is thy wrath just? And what if God,

     Who waiteth for thy fruits in vain,

Should also take the rod?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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6 Responses to “Symbols”: A Poem by Christina Rossetti

  1. Rose says:

    what kind of poem is this?

  2. aunty dawkins says:

    Is this your anti dote to Hitchen’s representation of Christianity as totalitarian?

  3. santitafarella says:

    Aunty Dawkins:

    I found, at an outdoor bookseller along the Thames this past summer, a 19th century collection of Christina Rossetti’s poems—and this happened to be one of the ones that I especially liked.

    In Rossetti’s humane understanding of God, there is no wrath associated with failure—he “witholds the rod”—so I suppose it could be a response to Hitchens assertion that Christianity has a violent god. Would that more religious people rejected hell, and an authoritarian diety, and removed that horrible doctrine out of the collective mind, and to the dustbin of history.

    Still, Rossetti’s poem could contain the hint that the wrath is merely withheld for a time, and not permanently and without limit. The authoritarian lingers even in this humane Christian poet.


  4. blah says:

    i dont understand it

  5. Ellie says:

    When was this written ?

  6. Anonymous says:

    what is the meaning

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