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.