Outside my foggy window, torrents of rain cascade down. A fire burns near the piano, candles are lit, soup is bubbling on the stove. It is a perfect for a day of practicing Bach and learning Schubert. The storm that has descended upon Northern California has swollen the streams and rivers, and the roads that lead from my house to anywhere else are flooded. My mind turns to other women who were housebound in the past- none, I think, so happily as I am. In particular, I think of Christina Rossetti who left school at the age of 13 to care for her ailing father. As the Rossetti family struggled to make ends meet, young Christina was left alone at home in order to tend for the almost- blind man in a relationship that was at best emotionally painful and quite likely sexually abusive. Within a few years, Christina's own health had collapsed, leaving the teen-aged girl mired in depression and morbidity. As the inner landscape of this once spirited and cheerful child became haunted, Christina's only consolation was her growing spiritual devotion. Eventually, she came to believe that the only thing truly worth pursuing was the connection with the Divine, a theme she explored for the rest of her life in novels and the poetry which poured out prolifically from her slender white fingers. One of her poems, "In the Bleak Midwinter" was used as the basis for Gustav Host's gorgeous hymn for this season. I wish she had been able to hear it during her own lifetime: perhaps it would have brought a ray of sunshine into her own all too-bleak life.
"In the Bleak Midwinter"
BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.