Monday, April 30, 2012

Heart's Quiet Home

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
by Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

One doesn't usually find sonnets addressed to mothers; indeed, mothers are very much an underused topic for poems. But at the same time, if you look at poems about mothers, you find that they are often not very good; Rossetti manages to give us something serviceable in a couple of poems, but poems about mothers tend to be rather weak. I suppose one possible theory is that motherhood as most people find it is a homely topic, in the strict and straight sense, its attractions lying in things as diverse and simple as warm hugs and peanut butter sandwiches and clean socks, and while one could have excellent poems about such very un-strange things, one can hardle expect such poems to be as common as for things that get their attraction in part from their striking strangeness -- like lovers and wives! Whatever the reason, Rossetti makes up the lack a bit here.

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