Christina Rossetti was born in London in 1830 to a literary and artistic family of Italian origin. When she was sixteen her grandfather printed a collection of her poems, convinced they were worthy of publication. Literature and poetry featured strongly in the Rossetti household. Her brothers Dante Gabriel and William Michael were among the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
She was a devout Anglican and was drawn to the Tractarian or Oxford Movement, and much of her writing reflected her strong religious views. Half of her approximately 1,200 poems are designated as devotional.
Rossetti, Christina: selected poems, text by R.W. Crump. 2008. London: Penguin
Three Nuns (1849-1850)
My heart is as a freeborn bird
Caged in my cruel breast,
That flutters, flutters evermore,
Nor sings, nor is at rest.
But beats against the prison bars,
As knowing its own nest
Far off beyond the clouded West.
My soul is a hidden fount
Shut in my clammy clay,
That struggles with upward moan;
Striving to force its way
Up through the turf, over the grass,
Up, up into the day,
Where twilight no more turneth grey.
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