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Hindered Rubies: Faith and Incarnation in the Poetry of Christina Rossetti

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Hindered Rubies: Faith and Incarnation in the Poetry of Christina Rossetti

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Location: Heythrop College

The third in a series of talks presented by Hilary Davies.

It was high-spring, and all the way
Primros’d, and hung with shade;
Yet, was it frost within,
And surly winds
Blasted my infant buds, and sinne
Like Clouds ecclips’d my mind

Henry Vaughan, ‘Regeneration’

At the season of Easter and the coming of spring, these lectures will look at what four major religious poets, two from the 17th and two from the 19th, have to tell us about the relationship between God and the incarnate world, between man and his Maker, and the fulcrum of faith that connects the two.  Is the world that we experience, in which we live, and love, and have our being, the affirmation of the presence of God?  If so, what is the place in it of sin, suffering and death?  Or should we rather strive towards a transcendent realm, one of ‘which we cannot speak’? What unites these chosen poets is the constant quest, through the poetic imagination, to explore ‘God in creation’, the God who is immanent in man’s affective, sensuous and spiritual surroundings, and to whom, man, in return, responds. Yet the roads they take to enter this realm are as individual as the poets and their language themselves.

Christina Rossetti: ‘Christ my God, when will it be/That I may let alone my toil/ And rest with Thee?    

Christina Rossetti is rightly regarded as one of the most important religious poets England produced in the 19th century.  Her poetry is marked by a constant debate between the sweetness of life, its transience and the never-ending quest of faith.  She is always aware of the omnipresence of temptation and sin, sin perceived, like her 17th predecessors, as a genuine deprivation of God.  To be pure in heart is no sentimental childishness, but hard-won.

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Other talks in this series: