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Featured Poem: Advent by Christina Rossetti

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 2nd December 2013

December has arrived and in the run-up to the festive season we'll be giving each Monday's Featured Poem a seasonal twist with some Christmas themed verse. Over the next four weeks you can expect an Advent calendar of sorts as we bring you some of the best and most classic poetry to enjoy as you make your Christmas preparations.

As yesterday was Advent Sunday, marking the beginning of the season of Advent, there seems no better way to start off with the following poem from Christina Rossetti. Having devout faith, Rossetti composed a great number of poems that celebrated the season including amongst others In The Bleak Midwinter, which we now know as a popular Christmas carol. This selection is one of several verses she wrote about the period of Advent. The themes of watching and waiting are revealed to have two meanings, as not only does it relate to the darkness of the long nights at this time of year, making things in the horizon difficult to be aware of, but also as Advent is viewed as a time to recognise the coming of Christ once more.


This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year,
And still their flame is strong.
“Watchman, what of the night?” we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
“No speaking signs are in the sky,”
Is still the watchman’s word.

The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
“Watchman, what of the night?” but still
His answer sounds the same:
“No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.”

One to another hear them speak,
The patient virgins wise:
“Surely He is not far to seek,”—
“All night we watch and rise.”
“The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.”

One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
“Friends watch us who have touched the goal.”
“They urge us, come up higher.”
“With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.” “They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.”

There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.

We weep because the night is long,
We laugh, for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept
For us,—we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.

Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight,
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, “Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.”

Christina Rossetti


If you're feeling overwhelmed by the stresses and strains of the holiday season then our latest Short Course for Serious Readers is especially designed to provide you with some calm amongst the festive fray. 'Stop The World I Want To Get Off!' is at Calderstones Mansion House this Friday 6th December, 10am-4pm and a final few places remain to allow you to read some great literature to escape from the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation.

For more information about the course, visit our website, and to book your place, contact Literary Learning Coordinator Sophie Johnson: or 0151 207 7207

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