Despised and Rejected Christina Rosetti

Despised and Rejected Image by Linda Richardson

Despised and Rejected Image by Linda Richardson

The poem I have chosen for December 11th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is Despised and Rejected, a dramatic and challenging reflection on encounter with Christ by Christina Rosetti. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, takes up the poems opening proclamation, was created by Linda Richardson.

Linda Writes:

There are some dramas you watch with dread. The Director lets you in on a secret that is unknown to the protagonist and you watch the drama unfold, knowing that along the way, you and the protagonist will meet at this awful moment. It was with this feeling that I began work.

When Malcolm invited me to show the images I made last year in response to Waiting on the Word, I decided to do a new art work for this poem as the one I made didn’t turn out well. But now as I come to write about it I hope you will forgive me for including it. The poem’s title is Despised and Rejected, so as a small gesture of redemption, it seems appropriate to include this work that I would otherwise have rejected.

The image is indelibly cut in two by a separating path of black ink from the top left to the bottom right. Throughout the image, Rossetti’s impassioned words weave about through the paths of ink and paint, but there, in the bronze paint at the top right of the image, like a smear of dried blood, is a cord. The cord is bundled and scrunched into the paint and travels in the opposite direction, to the bottom left of the image. The two paths meet at a cross. Art is like life, and the marks we make sometimes come from our deep subconscious, so as I return to this work I recognise the cord as something that leads out of a labyrinth. ‘Footsteps echoing like a sigh passed me by’, Rossetti says towards the end of the poem. And I am left with the question, ‘What opportunities of love do I miss when I am lost in the labyrinth of my mind’?

You can find  a short reflective essay on this poem, which draws out its many references to Scripture, in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

Despised and Rejected

My sun has set, I dwell

In darkness as a dead man out of sight;

And none remains, not one, that I should tell

To him mine evil plight

This bitter night.

I will make fast my door

That hollow friends may trouble me no more.


‘Friend, open to Me.’—Who is this that calls?

Nay, I am deaf as are my walls:

Cease crying, for I will not hear

Thy cry of hope or fear.

Others were dear,

Others forsook me: what art thou indeed

That I should heed

Thy lamentable need?

Hungry should feed,

Or stranger lodge thee here?


‘Friend, My Feet bleed.

Open thy door to Me and comfort Me.’

I will not open, trouble me no more.

Go on thy way footsore,

I will not rise and open unto thee.


‘Then is it nothing to thee? Open, see

Who stands to plead with thee.

Open, lest I should pass thee by, and thou

One day entreat My Face

And howl for grace,

And I be deaf as thou art now.

Open to Me.’


Then I cried out upon him: Cease,

Leave me in peace:

Fear not that I should crave

Aught thou mayst have.

Leave me in peace, yea trouble me no more,

Lest I arise and chase thee from my door.

What, shall I not be let

Alone, that thou dost vex me yet?


But all night long that voice spake urgently:

‘Open to Me.’

Still harping in mine ears:

‘Rise, let Me in.’

Pleading with tears:

Open to Me that I may come to thee.’

While the dew dropped, while the dark hours were cold:

‘My Feet bleed, see My Face,

See My Hands bleed that bring thee grace,

My Heart doth bleed for thee,

Open to Me.’


So till the break of day:

Then died away

That voice, in silence as of sorrow;

Then footsteps echoing like a sigh

Passed me by,

Lingering footsteps slow to pass.

On the morrow

I saw upon the grass

Each footprint marked in blood, and on my door

The mark of blood for evermore.


Filed under imagination

8 responses to “Despised and Rejected Christina Rosetti

  1. Bethan Scotford

    Having suffered bereavement within the last few years, I recognize so well the desolation and self-imposed isolation and the nursing of the pain of loss that Rosetti describes in the beginning of this poem. Despite my faith, and the cerebral understanding of the hope given to us through Christ, the pain of loss envelops each ‘present moment – it is hard to see beyond.
    This poem, recalls to me, the painting of Christ knocking at the door of the heart – that famous nineteenth century painting , and also, the enigma and and pathos of the visitor’s dismay in the poem ‘The Listeners.’
    The art work is particularly helpful in relation to this poem – the cord resonates with echoes of Thesus’s escape from the labyrinth; it also suggests the umbilical cord – the life-sustaining means of nourishement that
    has done its work, and which has to be severed in order for the baby to inhale the new air of human life. Grace and, duty often go hand in hand, and are not glamorous in their execution; duty can be hard, unyielding and messy and enervating.- words that only begin to describe Christ’s suffering for our sakes. The final soft poignancy of ‘soft footsteps echoing like a sigh’ are piercing in their sadness at our rejection of what we can do for our Lord.

  2. Though I am familiar with Christina Rosetti, I was not famiiar with this poem. I could not help but be moved by your thoughtful, empassioned reading of this poem. As a believer, I was listening and being drawn in, imagining the voice of the rejector (?), the agony with which he or she turned Christ away. As a poet, I marveled at the way the voices were separated. It occurred to me that had I not heard it read, it would have taken me some time to hear the voices separate. Both listeners needs were met, soul was filled, hearts cried. Thank you Malcolm, for the joy with which you share.

  3. MJH

    Reblogged this on the pocket scroll and commented:
    Here is a powerful, painful poem by Christina Rossetti chosen by the excellent Malcolm Guite.

  4. David C Brown

    My response to this – and the pathos of Christina Rossetti is here:

    I would appreciate comment!

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