Christina Rossetti: Mother Country

Mother Country

March 1868.

Oh what is that country
And where can it be,
Not mine own country,
But dearer far to me?
Yet mine own country,
If I one day may see
Its spices and cedars,
Its gold and ivory.
As I lie dreaming
It rises, that land:
There rises before me
Its green golden strand,
With its bowing cedars
And its shining sand;
It sparkles and flashes
Like a shaken brand.
Do angels lean nearer
While I lie and long?
I see their soft plumage
And catch their windy song,
Like the rise of a high tide
Sweeping full and strong;
I mark the outskirts
Of their reverend throng.
Oh what is a king here,
Or what is a boor?
Here all starve together,
All dwarfed and poor;
Here Death's hand knocketh
At door after door,
He thins the dancers
From the festal floor.
Oh what is a handmaid,
Or what is a queen?
All must lie down together
Where the turf is green,
The foulest face hidden,
The fairest not seen;
Gone as if never,
They had breathed or been.
Gone from sweet sunshine
Underneath the sod,
Turned from warm flesh and blood
To senseless clod,
Gone as if never
They had toiled or trod,
Gone out of sight of all
Except our God.
Shut into silence
From the accustomed song,
Shut into solitude
From all earth's throng,
Run down tho' swift of foot,
Thrust down tho' strong;
Life made an end of
Seemed it short or long.
Life made an end of,
Life but just begun,
Life finished yesterday,
Its last sand run;
Life new-born with the morrow,
Fresh as the sun:
While done is done for ever;
Undone, undone.
And if that life is life,
This is but a breath,
The passage of a dream
And the shadow of death;
But a vain shadow
If one considereth;
Vanity of vanities,
As the Preacher saith.