This poem expresses what I suspect many people, even very committed Christians, feel on Good Friday: we should weep more than we do, we should feel more than we feel, in response to Christ’s death on the cross.
While it’s true that faith and feelings are very different and distinct from one another, Rosetti observes here the misery and doubt that comes from knowing and believing in Jesus yet feeling as though she remains unaffected by her knowledge and faith, and expresses most eloquently the desire for God to help her to believe more fervently.
Whether or not one is a Christian does not limit their ability to be affected by the pathos in this poem, nor to consider the power of the imagery with which the poet evokes that sense of lonely difference from other people that pervades it.
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 a 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.
This poem is something of a tardis – it’s bigger on the inside. It’s not very long, but it tells a story that takes the reader from the wide-angle scenery of the landscape at night and a small boat on the water to the intimacy of a cabin in which the secretive lovers meet. It’s Romantic, but it’s really all about the stealth and secrecy that was even more typical of Victorian England than its Romanticism.
The imagery is magnificent and the storytelling is clever: the meaning is clear, even though much is left to the reader’s own imagination. This is the art of poetry: to evoke what the reader already knows, and yet to make it new at the same time.
Meeting at Night
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
I want to acknowledge two authors who were my first inspirations with all things Gothic and macabre.
As a woman who both reads and writes horror, that’s an exciting prospect. I am set to be be featured on some blogs and websites this month, and I’ll be sharing posts featuring other authors on my social media, too.
First though, I want to acknowledge two authors who were my first inspirations with all things Gothic and macabre.
Emily Bronte was the author of the Victorian Gothic classic ‘Wuthering Heights’ and some very dark, moody poetry. It was a significant change in the literature of the time – it was so dark and fraught with anger and tension that many readers really had no idea how to respond to it. I also think it is a sign of her literary genius that she wrote a book that became recognised world-wide as a masterpiece and a classic, despite the fact that there is not one single character who is likeable throughout the whole work!
She is also a very fitting figurehead for Women in Horror Month, given that she and her sisters couldn’t get their books published until they deliberately put masculine pen names on them instead of their own. For the most part, we’ve moved beyond such Victorian prejudices and embraced the myriad wonderful books that have been written by women, although there are still some today who suggest that women who write horror should publish under their initials or a pen name to avoid such discrimination. How is it even possible that this is still a reality 170 years later?
Mary Shelley wrote the Victorian Gothic/horror classic ‘Frankenstein’ in a competition with her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet Lord Byron and another man named John Polidori to see who could write the best horror story in a given time. Not only did she write something incredibly powerful and ground-breaking on a number of levels, she beat three men at their own game in the process.
These are just two of the women in the course of literary history who made an event like Women in History Month a possibility for female authors and for readers of all persuasions in the 21st century.
What a debt of gratitude and honour we owe them.