Poetry

Faint, yet pursuing


Oh, the best laid plans and all … I actually had a silly drama getting to that bush walk on Saturday, which I mostly created myself, such that I missed the first two kilometres of it, and I was going to write what would probably have turned into a long story, but in the end it is really not so interesting and I want to raise the sights here. So, there is another Christina Rossetti poem I have been meaning to post, and even though it’s hot on the heels of the previous one I’ve decided to post it anyway.

Christina knew the Sehnsucht a long time ago. The title of this poem could actually be a reference to Gideon and his army in Judges 8:4, though I haven’t been able to confirm that connection on google, but there is an old hymn by that name. Christina (we’re on first name terms, none of this ‘Rossetti’ business) uses the line elsewhere as well. It might also have served as a title for this humble blog.

Such sonnets are what Christina does best I say. It’s not clear that the four following stanzas belong to this poem, but they do flow on.

(It turns out formatting poetry in wordpress is not so easy as in blogger, and is infact excruciatingly tedious, but it is perhaps worth it.)

“FAINT, YET PURSUING.”

1.

Beyond this shadow and this turbulent sea,
Shadow of death and turbulent sea of death,
Lies all we long to have or long to be:–
Take heart, tired man, toil on with lessening breath,
Lay violent hands on heaven’s high treasury,
Be what you long to be thro’ life-long scathe:
A little while hope leans on charity,
A little while charity heartens faith.
A little while: and then what further while?
One while that ends not and that wearies not,
For ever new whilst evermore the same:
All things made new bear each a sweet new name;
Man’s lot of death has turned to life his lot,
And tearful charity to love’s own smile.

2.

Press onward, quickened souls, who mounting move,
Press onward, upward, fire with mounting fire;
Gathering volume of untold desire
Press upward, homeward, dove with mounting dove.
Point me the excellent way that leads above;
Woo me with sequent will, me too to aspire;
With sequent heart to follow higher and higher,
To follow all who follow on to love.
Up the high steep, across the golden sill,
Up out of shadows into very light,
Up out of dwindling life to life aglow,
I watch you, my beloved, out of sight;–
Sight fails me, and my heart is watching still:
My heart fails, yet I follow on to know.

What will it be, O my soul, what will it be
To touch the long-raced-for goal, to handle and see,
To rest in the joy of joys, in the joy of the blest,
To rest and revive and rejoice, to rejoice and to rest!

Lord, Thou art fulness, I am emptiness:
Yet hear my heart speak in its speechlessness
Extolling Thine unuttered loveliness.

O Lord, I cannot plead my love of Thee:
I plead Thy love of me;–
The shallow conduit hails the unfathomed sea.

Faith and Hope are wings to Love,
Silver wings to golden dove.

~ Christina Rossetti

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *