By Christina Georgina Rossetti; Simon Humphries
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The aesthetic of inexplicitness that appears to have guided the collaborative revision of Christina’s work was, in fact, consistent with that which produced many poems which were never subjected to radical revision. We can understand why reticence, even radical uncertainty, should be essential to the poetry. We have seen that, for Rossetti, to live in the world is to live with questions that may only ever be resolved when this world has passed away. Not only may the world be misread — an everpresent danger — but it may be impossible to know if it has been misread.
2; ‘long set’ and ‘heart sick’ in ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, ll. 7, 12). This edition standardizes thus: double inverted commas become single inverted commas; repeated inverted commas at the beginning of successive lines are removed; those poem titles which are not capitalized in manuscript are capitalized; full stops are removed from titles; ampersands used for the sake of space in revising manuscript poems become ‘and’ (but, in (‘Sleeping at last, the trouble & tumult over’), in which ampersands are used throughout, they are retained).
And even though her Sappho does what she is supposed to do — lament, longing for death — this is a far more sophisticated use of the poetic models than it might seem. In the context of other early poems spoken by pagan speakers (‘From the Antique’ (‘It’s a weary life, it is’) and ‘From the Antique’ (‘I wish that I were dying’) ) we may suspect that Rossetti’s primary concern is theological. When Sappho (in 1846) longs for ‘the long night that knows no morrow’, it is evident that she can have no expectation of an end to ‘death’s dreamless sleep’; so, too, the speaker of ‘From the Antique’ (‘I wish that I were dying’) wishes to die ‘Never to rise again’, to sleep but ‘without morn’.