"Good Friday" by Christina Rossetti


A devoted christian all her life, Christina Rossetti, one of the most influential poets of the Victorian era, wrote "Good Friday" in 1862 and published it in a collection of works address various aspects of the life of Christ. In this work, she explores the conflict between what one knows and what one feels about the central principles and events of Christianity. Under a certain light, the work explores the challenges of interfacing one's honest assessment of their personal identity with the assumed identity of a larger group to which one professes to belong. Rossetti uses a number of symbols and figures to accomplish this end, such as the image of a stone. In the first line, she compares herself to a stone, recalls it faintly in the reference to Peter (the rock), and finally again in the final line in supplication of a miracle.  

Am I a stone and not a sheep
  That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
  To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
  Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
  Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
  Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
  A horror of great darkness at broad noon,--
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
  But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
  And smite a rock.

Reflection Questions

  1. What does the imagery or symbolism of this poem add to its overall message?
  2. How does the form or the rhyme scheme of the poem affect its reading?
  3. In what ways does the poem suggest distance between the speaker and the larger Christian identity?
  4. How does the poem use techniques like tone color or repetition to enhance its reading?
Previous Citation(s)
"Poems," Christina Rossetti, The Project Gutenberg, released 5 September 2006 https://gutenberg.org/files/19188/19188-h/19188-h.htm#p_299

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