The first line of Christina Rossetti's "A Better Resurrection" ends: "no wit, no words, no tears." These words, which place immediate importance on negative imagery, allude to the absence of intelligence, language and emotion in her life. The three-stanza poem, using the rhyme scheme of ABABCDCD, takes the form of a comparison of the artist's life to fading fall leaves and to a broken bowl unfit to hold water. The poem is both religious, using an Easter theme, and lyric, in the sense that it expresses direct intense personal emotion in a manner suggestive of song (Merriam Webster). The unifying theme of the poem repeats three times in the last line of each stanza with Rossetti's cry for Jesus to quicken, rise, and drink of her. She describes her life as wilted, barren, perishable, and meaningless; a mere husk compared to a full harvest. The themes of emptiness, solitude, death, triumph of fall over spring and the Bible reference "I lift mine eyes" all relate to the title of the poem and culminate in a cry for a different, better kind of resurrection.
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears.
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
1. Does Rossetti blame Jesus for not having had a good enough resurrection? Is it his fault she is so alone? Or is she waiting for a kind of personal resurrection within herself, born through a love of Jesus?
2. In the last stanza, she wants the broken bowl to be tossed into a fire and remade into a royal cup fit for Jesus. Is there a direct comparison in the poem between the rich potential of her soul and the disappointment/failure of this life to fulfill it?
3. Which Pre-Raphaelite painter might best be called upon to depict the heavy emotion in "A Better Resurrection" on a canvas? Thematically, Hunt is the obvious choice, but artistically her brother might render this emotion with the most conviction. What already existing painting would make the best comparison?
4. In the second stanza she states "Yet rise it shall", are we to interpret this phrase as hopeful and something positive in an otherwise negative poem? What does it mean?
Last modified 20 October 2003