Tread softly! all the earth is holy ground.
It may be, could we look with seeing eyes,
This spot we stand on is a Paradise (Christina Rossetti, from ‘Later Life’)
The life and spirituality of the Church has been, and is, enriched by Christian poets. Many of the better hymns we sing were written originally as poems, and only later were tunes written or allocated to them.
Today the Church of England honours the life and poetry of Christina Rossetti (1830 to 1894). On this day her first recorded poems were written in 1842 for her mother, who was a formidable influence on her. Christina was only 11 years old at the time.
In 1857 Christina suffered a serious illness and a crisis of faith, which, she felt, did not allow her to receive the sacraments. From this time comes some of her most profound poetry. She was associated with her brother Dante Gabriel’s painting friends – the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. Nevertheless Christina led a relatively quiet life and rarely left an area of a few miles from her home near Oxford Street, in London.
Christina had a deep religious faith, inspired by Anglo Catholicism, and from the 1860s much of her poetry was of a devotional nature. Although of a relatively privileged upbringing Christina knew suffering. From the early 1870s she developed the disfuguring Grave’s disease. On 29 December 1894 she died at home in great pain and anguish, of cancer, having undergone surgery two years earlier.
Her poetry addresses many profound issues and she is perhaps most famous for her poem ‘In the Bleak midwinter.’
by Christina Rossetti