'De Profundis' by Christina Rossetti

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Poems1881Oh why is heaven built so far,Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest starThat hangs afloat.I would not care to reach the moon,One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tuneBeyond my range.I never watch the scatter'd fireOf stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,And all in vain:For I am bound with fleshly bands,Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,And catch at hope.

Editor 1 Interpretation

De Profundis: A Deep Dive into Christina Rossetti's Poetry

Are you ready for a journey into the depths of the human soul? Then come with me as we explore Christina Rossetti's poem "De Profundis" and its themes of despair, faith, and redemption.

The Poem

Let's start by reading the poem itself:

Out of the deep, my child, out of the deep,
Where all that's born and dies does lie,
There is a Land where shadows flee,
Where every ill finds cure, and every tear
Is wiped away, lest it should blister yet
This poor blind face of mine.
Out of the deep, my child, out of the deep,
The overwhelming deep, where I am now
Come up to me, my child; come up, come up,
And hush awhile with me.

At first glance, the poem seems to be a simple dialogue between a mother and her child, with the mother urging the child to come up from the depths and find comfort with her. However, as we delve deeper (pun intended), we realize that the poem is much more complex and layered than it appears.

The Themes

One of the main themes of "De Profundis" is despair, as expressed by the mother's voice. She is in the depths, where "all that's born and dies does lie", which can be interpreted as a symbol of death and the afterlife. The mother is suffering and seeking solace, which leads us to another theme: faith.

The Land where shadows flee is a reference to the biblical concept of heaven, where all suffering and pain are left behind. The mother believes in this place of redemption and invites her child to join her there, where every ill finds cure and every tear is wiped away.

But what is the cause of the mother's despair and need for faith? Here we come to another theme: redemption. The mother's tears are in danger of blistering her poor blind face, which suggests that she has gone through some kind of trauma or tragedy. Perhaps she has lost a loved one, or is struggling with an illness or disability. Regardless of the specific cause, the mother is in need of redemption and healing.

Finally, there is a theme of connection and comfort. The mother invites her child to come up to her and hush awhile, implying a need for closeness and intimacy. She is not alone in her suffering, and by sharing it with her child she finds some measure of comfort and solace.

The Interpretation

So what can we make of all these themes and symbols? One possible interpretation is that "De Profundis" is a meditation on the human condition, with all its joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. The mother's voice represents the universal experience of suffering and the need for redemption and faith. The Land where shadows flee is a symbol of hope and the promise of a better future, but it is also a reminder of the transience and impermanence of life.

The child's role, on the other hand, is less clear. Is the child a literal child, or a symbol of innocence and purity? Is the mother seeking comfort from the child, or offering comfort to the child? Is the child a source of hope and renewal, or a reminder of the mother's own vulnerability and mortality? These questions remain open to interpretation, and may depend on the reader's own experiences and perspectives.

The Criticism

Now let's turn to some critical perspectives on "De Profundis". One possible approach is to examine the poem's language and form. Rossetti's use of repetition and alliteration creates a sense of rhythm and musicality, while the short lines and stanzas convey a sense of urgency and intensity. The poem's simplicity and clarity also make it accessible to a wide audience, while its depth and complexity reward closer readings and interpretations.

Another critical lens is to consider the poem in the context of Rossetti's life and career. As a devout Christian and Victorian woman, Rossetti was deeply concerned with morality and spirituality, and her poetry often grapples with questions of faith and redemption. "De Profundis" can be seen as a continuation of this theme, but with a more personal and intimate focus on the experience of suffering and healing.

Finally, the poem can be read through a feminist lens, as a critique of patriarchal structures that deny women agency and autonomy. The mother's voice is a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of women in the face of adversity, and her invitation to the child can be seen as a gesture of empowerment and resistance.

The Conclusion

In conclusion, "De Profundis" is a powerful and multifaceted poem that explores themes of despair, faith, redemption, and connection. Rossetti's language and form create a sense of urgency and intensity, while her personal and spiritual concerns give the poem a depth and complexity that rewards closer readings and interpretations. Whether read as a meditation on the human condition, a reflection of Rossetti's own life and beliefs, or a feminist critique of patriarchal structures, "De Profundis" remains a timeless and resonant work of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

De Profundis, a classic poem written by Christina Rossetti, is a powerful and emotional piece that delves into the depths of human suffering and the hope that can be found in faith. This poem is a perfect example of Rossetti's ability to use language to convey complex emotions and ideas in a way that is both beautiful and accessible.

The title of the poem, De Profundis, is Latin for "out of the depths." This phrase is taken from Psalm 130, which begins with the words "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord." This connection to the psalm sets the tone for the poem, which is a meditation on the themes of sin, redemption, and salvation.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of the human experience. The first stanza focuses on the idea of sin and the guilt that comes with it. The speaker of the poem acknowledges that they have sinned and that they are deserving of punishment. They describe themselves as being "lost" and "buried deep" in their own guilt.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the idea of redemption. The speaker acknowledges that they cannot save themselves and that they need the help of a higher power. They ask for forgiveness and express their hope that they will be saved. The language in this stanza is particularly powerful, with phrases like "O let thy mercy veil my sin" and "O let thy love my pardon win."

The final stanza is a celebration of the hope that can be found in faith. The speaker expresses their belief that God will save them and that they will be able to rise "out of the depths" of their sin. They describe the joy that comes with this belief, saying that it is "a joy to know that thou art near."

One of the most striking aspects of this poem is the way that Rossetti uses language to convey complex emotions. The poem is full of powerful metaphors and vivid imagery that help to bring the speaker's emotions to life. For example, in the first stanza, the speaker describes themselves as being "lost" and "buried deep" in their own guilt. This metaphor of being buried alive is a powerful image that conveys the sense of suffocation and despair that comes with guilt.

Similarly, in the second stanza, the speaker uses the metaphor of a shipwreck to describe their own sinfulness. They describe themselves as being "wrecked upon a sea of sin" and in need of rescue. This metaphor is particularly effective because it conveys both the sense of danger and the need for salvation.

Throughout the poem, Rossetti also uses repetition to emphasize certain themes and ideas. For example, the phrase "out of the depths" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the idea of rising up from the depths of sin and despair. Similarly, the phrase "O let" is repeated several times in the second stanza, emphasizing the speaker's plea for forgiveness and salvation.

In addition to its powerful language and imagery, De Profundis is also notable for its religious themes. Rossetti was a devout Christian, and her faith is evident throughout the poem. The poem is full of references to God and the Bible, and the themes of sin, redemption, and salvation are central to the poem's message.

However, despite its religious themes, De Profundis is a poem that can be appreciated by people of all faiths (or no faith at all). The poem's message of hope and redemption is universal, and its language and imagery are powerful enough to resonate with anyone who has experienced feelings of guilt or despair.

In conclusion, De Profundis is a classic poem that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone who loves poetry. Its powerful language, vivid imagery, and religious themes make it a timeless meditation on the human experience. Whether you are a devout Christian or a secular humanist, this poem has something to offer. So take some time to read it, and let its message of hope and redemption lift you "out of the depths" of your own despair.

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