Much of Christina Rossetti's poetry is filled with a homesick love of spring, the season of a promise ever lovlier than its own fulfilment. Longing for "the limpid days" with their tender colors, their budding shoots, their small beguiling birds and beasts, is one in her regret for the lost youth of the soul. Both have the same heart-breaking beauty, pure and evanescent, that can never long continue its unsmirched freshness.
There is no time like Spring,
Like Spring that passes by;
There is no life like Spring life born to die, —
Piercing the sod,
Clothing the uncouth clod,
Hatched in the nest,
Fledged on the windy bough,
Strong on the wing:
There is no time like Spring that passes by,
Now newly born, and now
Hastening to die. [Christina Rossetti, "Spring"]
There, for Christina, lies one of the central human tragedies. We let youth slip from us regardless of the treasures it is bearinginto oblivion, with the same unperceptiveness that lets theglories of spring go by unheeded. Sometimes we are merely dull of heart. Sometimes we lose the perfect enjoyment of our young days because we keep looking forward to the mirage of a happier future, the vainest of all vain dreams. finally we may be cowards or temporisers who will not use the golden hours while we have them.
If I might see another Spring
I'd not plant summer flowers and wait:
I'd have my crocuses at once,
My leafless, pink, mezereons... (Christina Rossetti, "Another Spring")
The theme of lost opportunity, of joys unvalued until they have been snatched away forever, runs through the poems from The Prince's Progress onwards. The Prince, by his tardiness, loses his own life's felicity and sacrifices his betrothed:
This Bride not seen, to be seen no more
Save of the bridegroom Death
She is sister to Mariana in her moated grange; yet she represents more to Christina's mind than a neglected lover. She is the secret of life, the true happiness, that we one and all so readily abandon for illusions. To most of us life is a Prince's Progress of forced toils and casual triflings, and though the memory of the Princess stirs in our hearts, while she waits for us in patience, we allow ourselves to dally until, if at last we seek her at all, it is to fine her dying.
Robb, Nesca A. Four in Exile: Critical Essays on Leopardi, Hans C. Andersen, Christina Rossetti, A. E. Housman (1948). Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1968.
Last modified 1991