Christina Rossetti was one of the earliest succesful women poets. Of Italian heritage she lived in London most of her life.
Her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. It received widespread critical praise, establishing her as the main female poet of the time. Her brother was the famous artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti - one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood of artists. She was ambivalent about women's suffrage, but many scholars have identified feminist themes in her poetry. She was opposed to slavery (in the American South), cruelty to animals (in the prevalent practice of animal experimentation), and the exploitation of girls in under-age prostitution. She was prone to bouts of depression and deeply interested in religious devotion. She never married - although had three offers of marriage, all of which she declined.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
I sigh at day-dawn, and I sigh
When the dull day is passing by.
I sigh at evening, and again
I sigh when night brings sleep to men.
Oh! it were far better to die
Than thus forever mourn and sigh,
And in death's dreamless sleep to be
Unconscious that none weep for me;
Eased from my weight of heaviness,
Forgetful of forgetfulness,
Resting from care and pain and sorrow
Thro' the long night that knows no morrow;
Living unloved, to die unknown,
Unwept, untended, and alone.
Emily Dickinson is considered to be one the of the most important American poets of the 19th century. Considered an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.
I Died For Beauty
I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth - the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a-night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the
Day I first surmised the
Horses’ Heads Were toward Eternity –
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And two modern female poets:
American feminist Adrienne Rich
At Willard Brook
Spirit like water
moulded by unseen stone
and sandbar, pleats and funnels
according to its own
submerged necessity --
to the indolent eye
pure wilfulness, to the stray
in that cascade-bent pool
a random fury: Law,
if that's what's wanted, lies
asking to be read
in the dried brook-bed.
Sometimes you meet an old man
whose fist isn't clenched blue-white.
Someone like that old poet
whose grained palm once travelled
the bodies of sick children.
Back in the typed line
was room for everything: the blue
grape hyacinth patch,
the voluntary touch
of cheek on breast, the ear
alert for a changed heartbeat
and for other sounds too
that live in a typed line:
the breath of animals, stopping
and starting up of busses,
trashfires in empty lots.
Attention once given
returned again as power.
An old man's last few evenings
might be inhabited
not by a public--
fountains of applause off
tributes read at hotel banquets--
but by reverberations
the ear had long desired,
accepted and absorbed.
The late poem might be written
in a night suddenly awake
with quiet new sounds
as when a searchlight plays
against the dark bush-tangle
and birds speak in reply.
And Australian poet GwenHarwood
The glass Jar
To Vivian Smith
A child one summer's evening soaked
a glass jar in the reeling sun
hoping to keep, when day was done
and all the sun's disciples cloaked
in dream and darkness from his passion fled,
this host, this pulse of light beside his bed.
Wrapped in a scarf his monstrance stood
ready to bless, to exorcize
monsters that whispering would rise
nightly from the intricate wood
that ringed his bed, to light with total power
the holy commonplace of field and flower.
He slept. His sidelong violence summoned
fiends whose mosaic vision saw
his heart entire. Pincer and claw,
trident and vampire fang, envenomed
with his most secret hate, reached and came near
to pierce him in the thicket of his fear.
He woke, recalled his jar of light,
and trembling reached one hand to grope
the mantling scarf away. Then hope
fell headlong from its eagle height.
Through the dark house he ran, sobbing his loss,
to the last clearing that he dared not cross:
the bedroom where his comforter
lay in his rival's fast embrace
and faithless would not turn her face
from the gross violence done to her.
Love's proud executants played from a score
no child could read or realize. Once more
to bed, and to worse dreams he went.
A ring of skeletons compelled
his steps with theirs. His father held
fiddle and bow, and scraped assent
to the malignant ballet. The child dreamed
this dance perpetual, and waking screamed
fresh morning to his window-sill.
As ravening birds began their song
the resurrected sun, whose long
triumph through flower-brushed fields would fill
night's gulfs and hungers, came to wink and laugh
in a glass jar beside a crumpled scarf.
So the loved other is held
for mortal comfort, and taken,
and the spirit's light dispelled
as it falls from its dream to the deep
to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken
to peace in the paradise of sleep.