by Christina Rosetti
Am I a stone and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop
Thy blood’s slow loss
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in the starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon —
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more,
And smite a rock.
Brought up in a middle-class home, Christina Rosetti (1830-94), sister of the artist Dante Gabriel, embraced Tractarianism and was a devoted Anglo-Catholic throughout her life. She attended Christ Church, Albany St, NW1, (currently on lease to the Antiochian Orthodox in London) and where she was confirmed in 1845. That same year, the incumbent, William Dodsworth, who was a friend of Dr E.B. Pusey, had found a house for Pusey’s experimental religious order in the parish. It opened on Easter Wednesday, 1845, and went on to become the Ascot Priory community.
Rosetti wrote much powerful religious poetry, including In the Bleak Midwinter. The concluding stanza brings a deliberately Catholic note, connecting with Moses and the Old Testament, the ‘stricken rock with streaming side’ which prefigures Christ on the cross and the way to new life.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ‘tis Easter morn?
Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.
Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.
Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day.
G.M. Hopkins (1844-89) was not properly published as a poet during his lifetime. A convert to Roman Catholicism (received by Newman in 1866), he became a Jesuit priest and held teaching posts in Sheffield, Lancashire and Dublin. He was greatly impressed and influenced by Christina Rosetti; they met in 1864. His poems often have ‘sprung rhythm’ and deploy archaic terms or word-contrasts. This Easter poem draws on his religious conviction, seeking resurrection joy and the eucharistic hope that each morning should recap the great feast.