The poem is fairly straightforward and easy to understand. It includes the perspective, although briefly, of Christ, the Angels, and the Saints. Rossetti does this in order to set up a conversation between her speaker, who may be the poet herself, and her vision of what the afterlife may or may not contain. ‘Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul’ provides readers with questions and with answers, suggesting that above all else, one must be faithful.
Explore Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul
‘Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul‘ by Christina Rossetti is a thoughtful piece about faith and the afterlife.
Throughout the four stanzas of this poem, the speaker acknowledges all the struggles she’s had and how hard she’s tried to be a good person. Her soul feels and strives towards Heaven, the saints, and angels, but she still worries that she won’t be accepted there or find a place there. Her concerns come through quite clearly, and the poet’s depictions of Christ and the saints try to soothe her worries.
Structure and Form
‘Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul‘ by Christina Rossetti is a four-stanza poem that is separated into sets of twelve lines. These lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABABCDCD, and so on, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The lines are also quite similar in length, despite the fact that there is not a consistent metrical pattern used. They vary from around six syllables up to nine.
Throughout ‘Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul,’ the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “fitful fire” in line three of the first stanza and “dwindled down” in line six of the second stanza.
- Caesura: can be seen when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, “They say – We rest in Jesus” and “Come and see – say the Saints.”
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza as well as lines one and two of the fourth stanza.
I am pale with sick desire,
For my heart is far away
From this world’s fitful fire
And this world’s waning day;
In a dream it overleaps
A world of tedious ills
To where the sunshine sleeps
On th’ everlasting hills.
Say the Saints?There Angels ease us
Glorified and white.
They say?We rest in Jesus,
Where is not day nor night.
In the first lines of ‘Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul,’ the speaker begins by describing her spiritual health. She’s “pale with sick desire.” Her heart, she says, is far away “From this world fitful fire.” Her heart and soul are not within her body. She’s implying. They’re elsewhere, alongside God and the angels “where the sunshine sleeps / on th’ everlasting hills.” It’s in this way that the speaker demonstrates her faith.
My Soul saith?I have sought
For a home that is not gained,
I have spent yet nothing bought,
Have laboured but not attained;
My pride strove to rise and grow,
And hath but dwindled down;
My love sought love, and lo!
Hath not attained its crown.
Say the Saints?Fresh Souls increase us,
None languish nor recede.
They say?We love our Jesus,
And He loves us indeed.
In the second stanza, the speaker conveys what she thinks her soul says. She’s suffered and labored, looked for love, spent “yet nothing bought,” and more. It’s through these struggles that she’s attempted to elevate herself to Heaven and a place alongside Christ. But, so far, she has yet to find herself there. She doubts if it’s possible for her to reach this level of faith and happiness. But, the Saints tell her, “Fresh Souls increase us.” The more people who turn toward God as the speaker has, the better. Jesus’s love is full, and “He loves us indeed,” they add.
I cannot rise above,
I cannot rest beneath,
I cannot find out Love,
Nor escape from Death;
Dear hopes and joys gone by
Still mock me with a name;
My best belovd die
And I cannot die with them.
Say the Saints?No deaths decrease us,
Where our rest is glorious.
They say?We live in Jesus,
Who once did for us.
In the third stanza, the speaker again admits to the struggles she’s been facing. She can’t find love, escape death, rise above, rest beneath, and so on. Her hopes and joys are gone and mock her. It’s this suffering that she’s worried about, as with the fact that others have died, and she “cannot die with them.” The Saints attempt, as they did before, to soothe her. “No deaths,” they say, “decrease” them. Living with Christ who “once dièd” is a good thing.
Oh, my Soul, she beats her wings
And pants to fly away
Up to immortal Things
In the Heavenly day:
Yet she flags and almost faints;
Can such be meant for me?
Come and see?say the Saints.
Saith Jesus?Come and see.
Say the Saints?His Pleasures please us
Before God and the Lamb.
Come and taste My Sweets?saith Jesus?
Be with Me where I am.
In the final stanza, the speaker describes her Soul again. It beats, like a bird, in its attempts to fly away from the mundane and sin-filled earth and up to “immortal Things.” There, it could exist in the “Heavenly day.”
The speaker asks, quite bluntly, if Heaven and all the joys to be had there are meant for her. The saints, Christ, and the angels tell her to “come and see.” It’s only through faith and trust that she’ll know whether or not Heaven is meant for her.
Rossetti likely wrote this piece in order to share her internal emotions in regard to her faith and concept of Heaven. While it’s not explicitly stated that the speaker is Rossetti, it’s likely that she was at the very least interested in the same ideas.
The themes are religion and the afterlife. The speaker explores her faith while also questioning what’s going to happen to her after death. It’s a combination of knowing that God exists and praising him and Heaven while also wondering if she could possibly be good enough to join him in Heaven.
The tone is questioning and reverential. The speaker admires and adores her image of Heaven but isn’t convinced that she is going to end up there. Her concerns come through clearly but are overshadowed by what she knows in her heart—that she’ll join Christ in Heaven.
The meaning is that one has to trust in Christ and in their faith that their good deeds will earn them a place in Heaven. The speaker admits her worries that this isn’t going to be the case for her despite her soul constantly striving forward.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Conference Between Christ, The Saints, And The Soul‘ should also consider reading some of Christina Rossetti’s other poems. For example:
- ‘Remember’ – addresses a couple’s future and the speaker’s desire to be remembered, but not if it causes her lover sadness.
- ‘A Birthday’ – talks about the delight of the narrator, who is shown to be very excited and jubilant for the birthday of her life.
- ‘Holy Innocence’ – a devotional poem about the purity and innocence of a child’s soul.