Friday, August 27, 2010

Amor Mundi

by Christina Rossetti, 1865

“Oh where are you going with your love-locks flowing
On the west wind blowing along this valley track?”
“The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye,
We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.”

So they two went together in glowing August weather,
The honey-breathing heather lay to their left and right;
And dear she was to dote on, her swift feet seemed to float on
The air like soft twin pigeons too sportive to alight.

“Oh what is that in heaven where gray cloud-flakes are seven,
Where blackest clouds hang riven just at the rainy skirt?”
“Oh that’s a meteor sent us, a message dumb, portentous,
An undeciphered solemn signal of help or hurt.”

“Oh what is that glides quickly where velvet flowers grow thickly,
Their scent comes rich and sickly?”—“A scaled and hooded worm.”
“Oh what’s that in the hollow, so pale I quake to follow?”
“Oh that’s a thin dead body which waits the eternal term.”

“Turn again, O my sweetest,—turn again, false and fleetest:
This beaten way thou beatest I fear is hell’s own track.”
“Nay, too steep for hill-mounting; nay, too late for cost-counting:
This downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.”


Kelly Elmore said...

It's weird how when you have something on your mind, it always appears again. We were just discussing the Rosettis in my Middle English class (you know how obsessed pre-Raphaelites were with medieval themes). I had not read this poem, though, and I enjoyed it very much. In a way, it's kind of medieval, don't you think? The theme of taking the hard road away from the world to avoid death. But also, the idea of walking along a road with a guide, noticing the things around you is kind of medieval. Like Dante and Piers Plowman.

Lynne said...

Apparently CGR meant to pair this with an earlier work, Uphill.

While I appreciate a lot of the pre-Raphaelite painters, I haven't studied their poetry much so I can't place this in the historical context of other poets' works. However, the idea that one just travels along encouraged to ignore the signs of doom along the way sort of spoke to me this morning.

I'm thinking of looking deeper into her brother's paintings and poetry pairings. There's some pretty cool stuff in that.