January 2, 2023

Poems to Read Aloud: Christina Rossetti

Poems to Read Aloud , Resources , The Buckley Experience

The Buckley School's founder believed that all public speakers should hone their presentation skills by reading poetry out loud. We keep that worthwhile practice alive by including a poem in our magazine each month for you to read aloud. Above, Christina Rossetti painted by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

"Like Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti liked to imagine what would happen at the moment of death and after, as though to prove that there was a difference between her minimalist life and death."

– Phyllis Rose, author of "Woman of Letters: A Life of Virginia Woolf"

She's said to have dictated her first story to her mother while she was so young she had not yet learned to write.

Christina Rossetti was born into a family of artists and writers. After the publication of her first volume of poems in 1862 when she was 31, Rossetti was widely considered the successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That volume included "Goblin Market," one of Rossetti's best-known works.

Even if you think you can't recall a poem by Rossetti, you most likely can. Many of her lines are familiar and repeated. Her poem "Love Came Down at Christmas" was set to music and is a popular carol in Britain. Or consider the opening lines of "Song": 

      When I am dead, my dearest
      Sing no sad songs for me;

Rossetti wrote and published poems throughout her life, including verse for children. She also worked as a governess, volunteered at a refuge for ex-prostitutes and was vocal in her opposition to slavery in the U.S., the use of animals for science experiments, and the exploitation of under-age girls in prostitution. 

Christina Rossetti, second from left, in a family photograph made by Lewis Carroll. Her brother Dante Gabriel is first from left. Her mother, Frances Polidori, and brother William are on her right.

Part of a wide circle of artists and poets, she was respected in her lifetime and influenced writers including Gerard Manley Hopkins and Virginia Woolf. She sat for a number of artists including her brother, the poet and noted Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Born in London on December 5, 1830, Rossetti suffered from Graves disease in her 50s, then breast cancer in her early 60s. She died in December 1894.

Below, a short poem from Rossetti for you to read aloud—one that will no doubt be familiar to you.

Who Has Seen the Wind?


Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

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