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"Home one and all": Redeeming the Whore of Babylon in Christina Rossetti's Religious Poetry.

Christina Rossetti's mode of interpreting the Book of Revelation as a spiritual guidebook for the individual believer is anomalous within the dominant exegetical traditions of historical and allegorical interpretation of this difficult biblical text. In The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse, published in 1892 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, she emphasizes this interpretive mode even in the language of her title; as a "devotional" commentary, it reflects the personal faith of its author and seeks to prompt the expression of such faith in its readers. While the "devotional commentary" was a genre associated with a number of Tractarian writers, Rossetti's choice to adapt her exegetical study of Revelation to a form that invites personal reflection positions her simultaneously as authoritative exegete and humble Christian believer, or what Robert M. Kachur describes simply as "a female interpreter of the Scriptures" in a male-dominated field. (1) In her Prefatory Note to The Face of the Deep, Rossetti claims neither to explore the sociopolitical context of Revelation nor to solve any coded allegorical signification in the text but rather to "seek and hope to find Patience" as part of a "pilgrim caravan." (2) Her lengthy commentary on the text is largely a meditation on what it tells the Christian about her covenantal relationship with God, and she incorporates her prayers and poems into the commentary as a deepening of that relationship. She underscores her personal interpretive mode in her discussion of the twelfth chapter of Revelation when she claims that "each figure appeals to our experience, even when it stands for some object unprecedented or surpassing" (p. 309); thus, the Woman Clothed with the Sun in this chapter may signify something beyond individual understanding, but she also functions as a revelation of something concretely connected with women's lives. While Rossetti certainly considers the symbolic significance of the figures appearing to John of Patmos--the Woman Clothed with the Sun as a symbol of the Christian church, for example--she returns always to the personal significance, or to the interpretation of such figures as representing human beings, as the place of her authority. Within her commentary on Revelation 12, she also asserts that "however skill may fail me to work out such a problem in matters celestial, in matters terrestrial the lesson is obvious" and goes on to instruct her reader to practice Christian faithfulness in this world (p. 326). The female figures of Revelation may certainly have cosmic resonance, Rossetti implies, yet they speak most directly to our human experience and to the experience of women in particular.

The kind of methodical treatment of biblical verses that characterizes the prose commentary of The Face of the Deep does not characterize Rossetti's religious poetry, and the looseness of her allusions in that poetry enlarges possibilities for women's experience within the Christian worldview. While she does exhibit a certain freedom in her prose by cross-referencing biblical passages and thus bringing together verses that seem disjointed (signaled rhetorically by remarks such as "I do not know whether it is allowable to connect texts as follows--" [p. 317]), she embraces a greater interpretive freedom in her apocalyptic poetry by employing a polysemic method of biblical allusion. This method characterizes her poetic career, evident in early as well as late works. In poems such as "The World" (composed in 1854), "From House to Home" (composed in 1858), and the devotional verse published as part of The Face of the Deep near the end of her life, her use of biblical allusion is shaped by a feminist theology that revises and recontextualizes Scripture, sometimes radically, to make it new. (3) As Nilda Jimenez suggests in her concordance of biblical allusions and influence in Rossetti's poetry, Rossetti's use of Scripture is complicated because even though she typically transports unadulterated biblical phrases into her verse, she also tends to yoke phrases from multiple biblical sources in the process. (4) While such yoking might strengthen a particular idea common to those sources, it more often opens an interpretive gap between the sources and the poetry. Rossetti creates further difficulties for her reader, Jimenez claims, when she positions biblical phrases in completely different contexts than those of their source, resulting in a radical shift in meaning. If we consider such recontextualizing as opening up possibilities rather than difficulties, however, then we see Rossetti engaging in a participatory hermeneutic that seeks to apprehend God's truth through her poetic capacity.

In her apocalyptic poetry in particular, Rossetti employs this participatory hermeneutic to reject what Lynda Palazzo identifies as the Tractarians' "renewed emphasis on woman's sinfulness, moral weakness and role in the Fall, which required the advent of a male saviour to redeem humanity." (5) For the Victorian woman to attempt not only to interpret this oblique text but also to critique the gender ideology informing its archetypal female figures--the Woman Clothed with the Sun, the Whore of Babylon, the Bride of Christ--is to place herself at risk on multiple levels. Yet while the prose sections of The Face of the Deep present Rossetti as an exegete careful to remind readers of her ignorance and potential for error, her apocalyptic poetry exposes her as a revisionist reader who more assertively resists the alignment of evil with the figure of the female. Her refiguring of the Whore of Babylon from Revelation 17 in particular marks her resistance, for she not only redeems that figure of the irretrievably fallen woman as worthy of salvation, refusing to renounce the bodily life in her embrace of the spiritual, but she also radically enlarges the biblical text by shaping her into the New Jerusalem itself, the Bride of Christ. By doubling and doubling again the female figures in her apocalyptic poetry, both archetypal and human, Rossetti unites the representational body with the physical body and creates a multiform female figure as a site for both historico-political struggle and eschatological expectation. Rossetti's poetic voice is polyphonic, incorporating the various modes of discourse that Paul Ricoeur attributes to revelation--prophecy, narrative, prescription, wisdom, and hymn--to "bind together ethos and cosmos, the sphere of human action and the sphere of the world.'' (6) Her religious vision, then, defies a concept of separate spheres in more ways than one.

Written in 1858, the apocalyptic poem "From House to Home" uses the Romantic convention of a dream-vision to convey in part the speaker's psychological move from her attachment to an earthly paradise to a desire for the New Jerusalem. Unlike the speaker of Rossetti's "After this Judgment," a poem composed just two years earlier that also speaks of "the goal" of salvation, the speaker in "From House to Home" does not plead for redemption from the risen Christ or express the internal fear and longing of a faltering believer in supplication to God; instead, the speaker of this longer poem relates two visionary experiences to her listener-friend that have led her to faithful assurance of salvation. The first is of her attachment to an "earthly paradise" and its loss, and the second is of the apocalypse and of God's restoration] The title of the poem alone suggests that the speaker succeeds in shifting her attachment from earthly pleasure to heavenly reward, implying that such a shift is itself a moving "home" and inviting an allegorical reading. Such an interpretation is complicated, however, by Rossetti's use of two dream-visions, each with a bipartite structure; by the doubled characters appearing in both; and by her importation of multiple symbols from Revelation 17 into a strikingly different context. (8) Her disruption of any straightforward allegorical correlation between character and signification, combined with her recontextualizing of the figure of the Whore of Babylon in particular, makes "From House to Home" more complex than any superficial moral lesson about the value of patience for the believer, which has been its persistent legacy.

As in Goblin Market, published in the same volume of verse, the psychological and theological significances of "From House to Home" depend on its representations of the physical body, especially of the female body--its pleasure, its pain, its strength. The poem opens with descriptors that have no object--"The first was like a dream thro' summer heat, / The second like a tedious numbing swoon"--but then the listener's question, "'what was this thing and where?'" transforms them into a singular object (ll. 1-2, 5). The "first" and "second" become a "thing," which the speaker then revises into "a pleasure-place within my soul; / An earthly paradise supremely fair" (ll. 6-7). Immediately in the first two stanzas, Rossetti moves back and forth between representations of the immaterial and the material so fluidly that we cannot distinguish between psychological and physical states or between desire for what is beyond the self and for the self. Similarly, she slips from simile to metaphor to symbol so cleanly that our interpretations of what at first seems to be a double order of signification are continually shown to be insufficient or incomplete. In stanza four, for example, she invites the reader to interpret the symbolic castle as representing her speaker's "pleasure-place," "kindl[ing] into fire" even in its frailty, but then in stanza five she shifts the location of her pleasure to the metaphorical "undulating green" seemingly outside the castle, where plants and animals flourish in a paradisiacal world (ll. 16, 17). When this paradise is eventually destroyed at the end of the first part of the first vision, Rossetti does not maintain her original figures for it but instead comes closer to identifying directly the female body as paradise:
 That night destroyed me like an avalanche;
 One night turned all my summer back to snow:
 Next morning not a bird upon my branch,
 Not a lamb woke below. (ll. 77-80)


Now the seasons, plants, and animals are recognized as part of her, felt by physical pain at their absence. No longer does she speak of "[her] trees" with "their branches," but she speaks of "my branch," as though she herself is the tree (ll. 26, 27). These fluid representations are akin to what Helena Michie describes as "linguistic codes that create a gap between the reader and the Victorian heroine's body," simultaneously disclosing and concealing it. (9) Rossetti exploits the subversive power of such codes when she moves between architectural symbols, natural metaphors, and the literal female body to locate and dislocate simultaneously the pleasure of earthly existence. Linda E. Marshall argues a similar point when she claims that the poem deconstructs the dichotomy between "house" and "home" in the speaker's post-visionary w)w "To pluck down, to build up again the whole--/ But in a distant place" (ll. 207-208) which is less a repudiation of the "house" than a reconstitution of it elsewhere (Marshall, p. 315). If the house will become the home, as Marshall claims, then Rossetti's chain of figures that substitutes the female body for the earthly paradise or "house" suggests that the body will also be the heavenly paradise or "home," that it will not be destroyed but rather reconstituted in a new place.

As is common to Romantic dream-visions, the speaker relates her experience to a listener-her "friend," to whom the speaker refers once at the beginning and once at the end of the poem, framing the narrative. The first reference is to the friend's request for details about "this thing," which prompts the narrative, and the second is the speaker's direct address to the friend near the end of the poem, which marks the coming of the practical lesson. More interesting than Rossetti's use of a framing device, however, is her repetition of the word "friend" (l. 157) within the internal narrative because it orients the reader to a doubling of the female body as well as its redemptive potential. The internal narrative contains two ambiguous references to a friend that undermine the separation between the framing device and the internal narrative; while these references seem to be to figures within the dream-visions, the lack of nominal distinctions between the figures makes the references fluid. The first reference lies within the first part of the first vision, where the speaker hosts "one like an angel," whose companionship suggests both a spiritual union and erotic fulfilment as they "commune... together all the day, / And so in dreams by night" (ll. 55-56). Clearly, this visionary experience has a significant physical dimension for the speaker, who feels heightened sensations of pleasure and pain. As the speaker relates her increasing satisfaction and delight to the point of physical gluttony in her "wax[ing] more feastful" (l. 62), she claims to have been ignorant of her "friend['s]" sadness (l. 64), which seems to refer to the feelings of her angelic companion. Because this language echoes the speaker's previous address to the listener of the narrative frame, however, Rossetti suggests a multiple signification, conflating angel with listener. In such a conflation, the destruction of her "pleasure-place" does not finally warrant the destruction of her physical pleasure. The angel may leave her to numbing pain, yet we know that the speaker has not lost her friend. When she cries out, "O love, I knew that I should meet my love, / Should find my love no more" (ll. 87-88), she seems to be directly addressing the angel, who had cried "O love" to her when fleeing (l. 75). Yet to interpret these lines as a direct address to the angel is to arrive at a grammatical conundrum if she also indirectly refers to the angel as "my love" in the same sentence. Such referential ambiguity impedes us from locating the friend or the lover in any one figure or in any one place. The listener becomes the angel; the lover becomes the friend. Through the dislocation of both, Rossetti lessens her speaker's compulsion--and her reader's--to look beyond the material world and the temporal present for restoration, and through her underscoring of the material dimension of this vision, she blurs the distinction between body and spirit.

Significantly, both body and spirit break with the loss of her love, triggering the second bipartite vision and suggesting its attention to their joint restoration. The second reference to a friend within the interior narrative appears as part of this vision and is no less ambiguous than the first. Extending over 95 lines or almost half of the poem, this vision is embedded within the first vision, twice-enclosed by narrative frames, and it reverses the first vision's movement from pleasure to suffering. After the speaker's "avalanche" of pain, she falls into a "swoon" that transports her into a realm seemingly between human and angelic existence, and she hears "the song/Of spheres and spirits rejoicing over [her]" (ll. 105-106), which grants her a new, life-giving vision. As the veil is removed from her eyes, she no longer sees merely her own struggle against earthly desire but glimpses a woman whose struggle marks the end of the heavens and the earth. Rossetti uses two repetitions that further her doubling of the female figure and the blurring of the material and immaterial realms despite this new vision's seemingly symbolic field of reference. First, voices speak over the visionary woman in her suffering just as they spoke over the speaker in her swoon, including one that cries out, "'The wounds are faithful of a friend:/The wilderness shall blossom as a rose'" (ll. 157-158). The use of "friend" hearkens back to the listener-friend of the outer narrative frame, which continues to suggest the interchangeability of the poem's female figures, yet in Rossetti's typological allusion to Isaiah 35--"the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose" in particular--she also aligns this woman with Christ as one who saves. (10) Like Lizzie of Goblin Market, whom Palazzo describes as "the portrayal of a female Christ demolishing the gender exclusivity of the sacred," this visionary woman embodies Rossetti's inclusive, incarnational theology (p. 25). Her faithfulness despite her suffering triggers the second part of this second vision--the apocalyptic end of the temporal world and the rising up of "the new-begotten from the dead" as "all things [are] made new" (ll. 187, 172). The speaker sees not only "multitudes" resurrected into joy and peace but also her own resurrected self in the figure of this visionary woman: the one "who lost her love in pain, / Who trod on thorns, who drank the loathsome cup" has been saved and loves again (ll. 165, 193-194). Her own painful loss becomes the visionary woman's loss, for the visionary woman is the one who has withstood thorns and bitter drink. Their unified suffering restores love, which is now directed "Sunwards" so that the eroticized body becomes only a trace, superseded by the worshipful body that itself retains a trace of God's action within history and recognizes it by turning toward God's love (l. 199). Rossetti's prophetic narrative vision here corresponds to Ricoeur's concept of the "double actant and consequently.., double object" of revelation, by which he argues that the events of prophetic narrative are both historical and transcendent, marking God's action within and for humanity (Ricoeur, p. 25). Not only does her vision reveal salvation, but it also reveals the presence of the divine within human history, embodied by the female.

Whereas the replacement of the eroticized female body by the worshipful body in this poem lends itself to what Dolores Rosenblum describes as Rossetti's "personal myth of loss, stoic endurance, and restitution" in heaven, a different doubling of the female in "From House to Home" suggests a mythic mode more political than personal. (11) Rossetti's importation of symbols from Revelation 17 into the second vision of this poem aligns her suffering woman not only with Christ but also with the Whore of Babylon. Three stanzas describing her suffering just prior to the apocalyptic "rend[ing] of the veil" (l. 159) are especially significant for this alignment:
 Her eyes were like some fire-enshrining gem,
 Were stately like the stars, and yet were tender;
 Her figure charmed me like a windy stem
 Quivering and drooped and slender. (ll. 121-124)

 But every flower was lifted on a thorn,
 And every thorn shot upright from its sands
 To gall her feet; hoarse laughter pealed in scorn
 With cruel clapping hands. (ll. 129-132

 I saw a cup sent down and come to her
 Brim full of loathing and of bitterness:
 She drank with livid lips that seemed to stir
 The depth, not make it less. (ll. 145-148)


Certainly the symbols associated with Christ are apparent in these stanzas, especially the thorns and the bitter cup from the crucifixion story that show, along with the cross, Christ's suffering and humiliation. Even the likening of the woman to a flower--"a windy stem / Quivering and drooped and slender"--resonates with Rossetti's associations elsewhere of Christ with the lily and the rose, which Arseneau attributes to her typological interpretation of Song of Solomon 2.1 ("I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys") (Arseneau, p. 119). Yet the language alluding to the Whore of Babylon in these stanzas, while less obvious, indicates a more radical theological position than simply a revision of "the gender exclusivity of the sacred," to use Palazzo's phrase. (12) In Revelation 17, the Whore appears to John of Patmos as a woman "arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication" (Revelation 17.4). John's response is to "wonder... with great admiration" at this sight until he is checked by the angel who guides him, and her "mystery" is explained (Revelation 17.6-7). While Rossetti incorporates angelic voices into the apocalyptic vision of "From House to Home," they do not directly interpret for the speaker as the angel interprets for John; rather, they frame her vision with their sympathy and their desire that she "see," mirroring Rossetti's commitment to a participatory hermeneutic (l. 108). The speaker's initial response to the visionary woman, whose eyes are strikingly gem-like even if she is not clothed in gems, seems much like John's initial response to Babylon: she is "charmed." Rossetti's use of the cup "full of loathing and of bitterness" resonates with Babylon's cup "full of abominations and filthiness," and even though the poem's description of the cup uses language less condemnatory, when the visionary woman drinks from the cup, her "livid lips" seem "to stir / The depth, not make it less," which aligns her with sin rather than with the purity of a Christ-figure. This moral ambiguity hearkens back to the speaker's first sight of the visionary woman and her description of her as "where / Night and new morning strive for domination" (ll. 117-118). Unlike the sinless Christ, this female figure embodies an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil. Her body--her "livid lips" specifically--appears to participate in that evil, yet her drinking from the cup does not destroy her but rather marks the destruction of the temporal world and the opening of the heavens. Finally, the chain that "sustain[s] her form" is a complex symbol as well because even though Rossetti clearly invests it with a vitality founded in its sacred connection to heaven, it also suggests the chain in Revelation 20 that is used to bind Satan for a thousand years.

By echoing the language of Revelation in her description of the visionary woman, who is not irredeemably corrupt like Babylon, Rossetti conflates archetype with real and resists the biblical text's association of the female with sinfulness beyond Christian redemption. By suggesting that her female figures in this poem are interchangeable, she grants them not only a heavenly home but also a participatory role in the dawning of the new day. As the speaker sees the multitudes who have risen to be like the angels, "Double against each other," she again sees the visionary woman as her own double--as one who was lost but "in day was found again; / The fallen [is] lifted up" (ll. 190, 195-196). This poem may condemn a false trust in the pleasures of this earthly life, but its power lies not in its renunciation of the body for immaterial gain; its power lies in its embrace of the body as redeemable, even the body of the Whore, whose destruction Revelation requires for the creation of a new heavens and new earth. Both visions end in restoration--for the woman who struggles and for the speaker who is confident of salvation. Babylon becomes the New Jerusalem, which will house all believers; the female body is the vehicle for the new creation, yet that creation is not limited to the female. The female figures embody sin and redemption, Babylon and Christ, earthly house and heavenly home. Through their continual displacement by one another, they escape the confines of simple dichotomies. Rossetti's recontextualizing of the symbolic language of Revelation functions to create what Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza calls "a rhetorical space for wo/men who desire to read Revelation 'otherwise,'" or without reinscribing a determinism based on gender. (13) Such rhetorical space depends on the description of physical place in "From House to Home" so that Rossetti never allows her reader to disconnect the symbolic female from the women's bodies and women's places that have redemptive power.

In her exegesis of Revelation 17 in The Face of the Deep three decades later, instead of doubling female figures against one another to question Babylon's sinfulness as in "From House to Home," she stresses the sinfulness of all humans to deemphasize gendered categories of sin. This is clear immediately when she avoids referring to "the great whore" in verse one but rather explains the sight of Babylon as "the vileness and ruinousness of idolatrous defection in every form subtle or gross" (p. 396). By rhetorically downplaying gender in her devotional commentary as opposed to her foregrounding it in the long poem, she focuses on Babylon as representative of sin rather than indicative of woman's weakness; thus, she stresses a different interchangeability in this work--that between figures for human sin: "Assume what shape it may, its nature remains the same," she claims, as though any shape besides the whore would suffice. Then, too, her commentary on the first two verses concludes, as Diane D'Amico points out, with a poem on love. (14) Rossetti turns our attention from St. John's invitation to witness the whore to the believer's plea for a love with which to worship the Lord--a love that seems to mirror the "longer day of love" that will come with the New Jerusalem: "A longer, brighter, lovelier day than this, / Endless, all love, no sorrow, but a song" (p. 398). When she considers gender explicitly later on in her discussion of verses four and five, Rossetti's language certainly becomes excoriating; she describes Babylon as "this obscene woman" who could show "the particular foulness, degradation, loathsomeness, to which a perverse rebellious woman because feminine not masculine is liable" (p. 400). Yet such an interpretation comes from studying Babylon "on the surface" rather than to any depth, she claims, and she goes on to protest against those commentators who suggest that women are more sinful than men, choosing instead to leave judgment to God. (15) In fact, she suggests that Babylon's sitting on the beast may equate her with "the image" of the beast from Revelation 13.11, thus removing the rhetorical focus from the female figure and rendering her sin as a emanation of the beast's: "I think the image and woman assume a possible interchangeableness when we recall St. Paul's sentence: 'A man.., is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man'" (p. 404). By importing part of I Corinthians 11.7 here, Rossetti suggests that if we believe that glory is mediated for women by men, then women's sin is also mediated by men. As an exegete in The Face of the Deep, Rossetti's imaginative scope may be limited by St. John's apocalyptic vision, yet within these limitations, she mitigates the identification of the female with irredeemable sin by allowing her multiple symbolic referents. Rossetti often chooses to use the language of Revelation 18 identifying Babylon as a city rather than using the gendered language of Revelation 17, so that when Babylon burns, it does so not as a woman but as a place of impure pleasure. In this way, she creates a rhetorical space for the female even within Revelation's symbolic register, although only in her apocalyptic poetry does she recontextualize apocalyptic symbols to bridge the gap between the symbolic and the real and to assert women's divine agency.

Similarly, The Face of the Deep's conservatism in its advocacy of patience for the believer does not correspond to "From House to Home"'s more ambivalent treatment of patience. Carmel O'Brien argues that Rossetti's patience is apocalyptic because it looks for its reward in divine justice and redemption, yet O"Brien only considers the poetry and prose from The Face of the Deep. (16) In "From House to Home," the speaker believes that she will have a foretaste of that reward in the here and now. While the final stanzas of this poem mark her embrace of patience until the end time, Rossetti's descriptions of the apocalyptic transformation from old to new evidence her belief that the old will not be destroyed but rather reconstituted in a way that maintains the Jerusalem that her "heart remembers" (l. 212):
 Altho' today He prunes my twigs with pain,
 Yet doth His blood nourish and warm my root:
 Tomorrow I shall put forth buds again
 And clothe myself with fruit. (ll. 221-225)


In this penultimate stanza, Rossetti repeats her metaphor from the poem's first vision so that the speaker is again a tree whose branches, although stripped by the destruction of her earthly paradise, will once again give life. In her allusion to John 15.2b in these lines--"every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit"--she also affirms her speaker's unmediated relation to God. By the final lines of the poem, the speaker has replaced her past godlessness with an eschatological expectation and vow to "stay upon" God, but she does not do so with only a spiritual self (l. 228). She may renounce her hedonistic pleasure in physical beauty and the satisfaction of physical desire, but she does not renounce her physicality, for she claims both to "possess [her] soul" and, "as a flint," to "set [her] face" as Christ sets his toward Jerusalem (ll. 205-206). The last six stanzas are filled with physical images like this setting of her face so that we see the "precious" self as a bodily creature and not a disembodied soul (l. 214). According to Palazzo, Rossetti's poetry resists Tractarianism's conflation of the sinful world with the female body, which prompts Palazzo in turn to resist "the renunciatory female figure as the crucial symbol in the critical appreciation of Rossetti's work." (17) Clearly renunciation does inform the ethos of "From House to Home," yet its force is directed toward pleasure for the self as a form of idolatry rather than toward pleasure itself. The female figure renounces neither the soul nor the body in this poem; she looks confidently to their restoration, "when from His storehouses / God shall bring new and old" and transform her house into home (ll. 215-216). That this physical reconstitution symbolically includes the irredeemably fallen woman suggests that such a category has no efficacy within the real, that all can and will be justified before God.

Because her poetry explicitly about the Whore of Babylon was first published within her commentary on Revelation 17-18 in The Face of the Deep, Rossetti is less sanguine about redemption in it; she does not yoke biblical phrases to recontextualize the fallen woman, nor does she conflate her with other archetypal female figures like the Bride of Christ. In "Babylon the Great," for example, she uses the language of Revelation 17.4 instead to shape a female figure that seems both human and supernatural, which distances this sonnet from her earlier, allusive apocalyptic poetry. The octave especially concerns the extent of Babylon's seductive power:
 Foul is she and ill-favoured, set askew:
 Gaze not upon her till thou dream her fair,
 Lest she should mesh thee in her wanton hair,
 Adept in arts grown old yet ever new.
 Her heart lusts not for love, but thro' and thro'
 For blood, as spotted panther lusts in lair;
 No wine is in her cup, but filth is there
 Unutterable, with plagues hid out of view. (p. 406)


Certainly this description emphasizes the physicality of Babylon, especially her "wanton hair" that seems to have a Medusa-like sexual agency that will ensnare the one who gazes and desires. Rossetti implies in the poem's first line that Babylon's corruption extends from character to appearance: "ill-favoured" and "set askew" suggest that she has been created as both immoral and physically foul. Her beauty is false, and the one who succumbs to it will be in mortal danger because of her desires for "blood" rather than human emotion or connection. To become enmeshed with this sexually free female, then, is to lose one's life. The repetition of the word "lusts" lends her sexuality a bestial quality as her lust is compared to the panther's, and its force carries over to line seven as well, transforming the "cup" into an emblem of the female body as container of "filth" and "plagues." Rossetti interprets Babylon as a representation of human sin embodied in the female, seemingly reproducing the Tractarian and traditional Church emphasis on woman's weakness and susceptibility to fallenness rather than approaching it as a commentary on institutional or socio-political corruption. Babylon as prostitute--skilled in "arts grown old yet ever new"--implies the dangerous vulnerability of women's sexuality, corrupt at its heart and powerful in its corrupting of the male. She foregrounds such danger in the reference to Dante that precedes the poem, which reminds us how the foul woman becomes a siren in Dante's dream as he gazes on her.

Yet just as Rossetti ultimately downplays gender in her prose commentary on Revelation 17 by stressing the sinfulness of all humans, she also subverts the seemingly clear connection between gender and sin in this sonnet. The answering sestet speaks to the universal condition of sin:
 Gaze not upon her, for her dancing whirl
 Turns giddy the fixed gazer presently:
 Gaze not upon her, lest thou be as she
 When, at the far end of her long desire,
 Her scarlet vest and gold and gem and pearl
 And she amid her pomp are set on fire.


Rossetti uses doubling in this poem first to position herself as not merely speaking "in [her] own name, but in the name of another," as Ricoeur says of prophetic discourse, so that even as she reproduces a misogynistic description of Babylon, she also distances herself as female poet from that figure and aligns herself with God (Ricoeur, p. 75). Secondly, she uses doubling to shift our attention from Babylon's foulness to the potential foulness of the one who gazes upon her. She warns the reader not to gaze on Babylon, "lest thou be as she." Not singular in her sin, anyone who is seduced by Babylon will also become as sinful. The inverse argument, however, opens up the possibility that Babylon is not utterly condemned to the fire, for if she is not singular in her sin, then the redemption of the gazer could be hers as well. We do not witness "the far end of her long desire" but rather consider the speaker's assurance of that end as a prophetic warning of the coming judgment. Rossetti's commentary surrounding this poem interprets Babylon symbolically as "the World" or a geography of the seven deadly sins that cannot be deserted but that also cannot be a source of sustenance.

A comparison to Rossetti's 1854 poem "The World," in which she also alludes to Revelation 17 in her description of its female figure, shows a similar deferment of the time of judgment. "The World" speaks of one who is "soft" and "exceeding fair" during the day but "Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy/And subtle serpents gliding in her hair" at night (ll. 1, 3-4) (CP, 1:76-77). Barbara Garlick interprets this poem as evoking two halves of the divided self, the dark and the light, yet the poem's final lines position this double figure as initially other, as one to whom the speaker can capitulate or not: "Is this a friend indeed; that I should sell / My soul to her, give her nay life and youth, / Till nay feet, cloven too, take hold on hell?" (ll. 12-14). (18) Rossetti's descriptions of this monstrous female liken her to "Babylon the Great," but the questioning of her as "friend" also resonates with the language of "From House to Home," composed in the same decade, and implies that the speaker is female. The friend is false who tempts the believer away from God with worldly "fruits, sweet flowers, and full satiety": "A very monster void of love and prayer" (11.6, 8). The females of both "Babylon the Great" and "The World" can seduce all who look on their loveless physicality, not just the male. By concluding "The World" with a question, Rossetti leaves the future open, so that the choice to resist the "void" remains viable for the speaker. Here, too, her use of the sexually flee female as source of sin, allusively connected to the Whore of Babylon, does not reproduce St. John's testimony of Babylon's judgment. Her monstrous female may have "cloven" feet that have "take[n] hold on hell," yet her damnation lies beyond the temporal framework of this poem, opening it up to question. Even in "Standing afar off for the fear of her torment," published first in The Face of the Deep as part of her commentary on Revelation 18.9-10, the foul female's damnation, which seems far more assured than in the other two poems, is called into question by the speaker. Rossetti's repeated use of questions to open each of the first three quatrains indicates her criticism of those who gaze on the fallen woman but are too fearful to offer her comfort. The movement between quatrains is marked by these questions: "Is this the end? is there no end but this?" is followed by "Hath she no friend? hath she no clinging friend?," which is followed by "Will she be done away? vanish away?" (CP, 2:263). In the fourth quatrain, when the speaker says, "Alas for her amid man's helpless moan," she implies that such helplessness--lack of help for the other--is the cause of the woe. The final lines stress Babylon's solitude rather than her "pride / And foulness and besottedness" that open the poem: "Alas for her!" / She hath no comforter: / In solitude of fire she sits alone." While this poem condemns Babylon to the fire of hell less ambiguously than "Babylon the Great" or "The World," it emphasizes the selfishness of those who are too fearful to comfort her and does not sexualize her sin like the other two poems. Even in her poetry explicitly about the Whore of Babylon from The Face of the Deep, then, where Rossetti adheres most strongly to traditional biblical interpretation, she does not dwell on Babylon's sin but instead turns our attention to the human means of bringing redemption to fellow sinners.

Despite these poetic condemnations of Babylon within The Face of the Deep, the most provocative example of the alignment of Babylon allusively with redemption in Rossetti's oeuvre comes from this same text. "Who sits with the King in His Throne" appears within her commentary on Revelation 3.21-22 and was published again with two other poems under the common heading "She shall be brought unto the King" in Verses of 1893. Its allusions to Babylon are even more striking than those in "Frona House to Home" because of its devotional quality:
 Who sits with the King in His Throne? Not a slave but a Bride,
 With this King of all Greatness and Grace Who reigns not alone;
 His Glory her glory, where glorious she glows at His side
 Who sits with the King in His Throne.

 She came from dim uttermost depths which no Angel hath known,
 Leviathan's whirlpool and Dragon's dominion worldwide,
 From the frost or the fire to Paradisiacal zone.

 Lo, she is fair as a dove, silvery, golden, dove-eyed:
 Lo, Dragon laments and Death laments, for their prey is flown:
 She dwells in the Vision of Peace, and her peace shall abide
 Who sits with the King in His Throne. (CP, 2:282).


While this poem is complicated by Rossetti's use of language from Song of Solomon, her allusions to other chapters of Revelation are most striking because most radical in their new context. In the second stanza, Rossetti conflates the Bride of Christ, Babylon, and the Woman Clothed with the Sun through multiple allusions. The "she" of the second stanza has already been established as the Bride in the first stanza, but this Bride comes from a place ruled by Leviathan and the Dragon. Rather than the New Jerusalem "coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride" (Revelation 21.2), this Bride rises from depths unknown by angels; "Leviathan's whirlpool" resonates with the waters on which Babylon is seated in Revelation 17, and the extremities of frost and fire suggest regions beyond both heaven and earth. (19) While the Woman Clothed with the Sun does flee to the wilderness in the biblical text, followed by the dragon that has been thrown down to the earth as well, she does not come from earth but is rather "a great wonder" in heaven (Revelation 12.1). None of the biblical figures fit this Bride exactly; even though she has flown from evil, her implied knowledge of the "dim uttermost depths" shows that she can be no angel. (20) Significantly, the female figure of this poem is not only destined for redemption as in "From House to Home" but is also given a place at the side of God: she "sits with the King in His Throne" and "her peace"--the peace of the inheritor rather than of God--"abide[s]." At the end of John's vision in Revelation 22, the faithful also reign, yet they are described as God's "servants." Rossetti chooses not to import this word and describes the Bride as "Not a slave."

Positioned at the end of her brief discussion of Revelation 3.21-22, this poem serves simultaneously to punctuate that discussion and to dislodge it. Her exegesis emphasizes first the sinner's overcoming of sin through endurance, repentance, and purification; and second, the sinner's inability to overcome on his or her own. She confesses to Christ: "Thou overcamest in our stead, and happy are we if we overcome in Thy strength. Thou overcamest for us without our help, and Thou wilt overcome in us and by us except we hinder" (p. 144). Such an exception would seem to leave room for damnation in its acknowledging that we may "hinder" Christ's work on our behalf; it would seem to leave room for the fall of Babylon. Yet Rossetti follows this confession with a poem whose central metaphor for the faithful is water, and her near-juxtaposition of this poem with "Who sits with the King in His Throne" prefaces her radical conflation of Babylon and the Bride of Christ in the latter. In this first poem, the waters are "sweet," and the river is "shoreless":
 Lord, we are rivers running to Thy sea,
 Our waves and ripples all derived from Thee:
 A nothing we should have, a nothing be,
 Except for Thee.

 Sweet are the waters of Thy shoreless sea,
 Make sweet our waters that make haste to Thee;
 Pour in Thy sweetness, that ourselves may be
 Sweetness to Thee.


No place exists beyond this sea founded in Christ, and no water exists that is not sweet. The figurative shift, then, to the water imagery of "Who sits with the King in His Throne"--those "dim uttermost depths which no Angel hath known, / Leviathan's whirlpool"--is striking. This water does not "make haste" to Christ but rather turns in on itself under devilish dominion. The Bride of Christ comes not from sweet waters but rather from the whirlpool, and the peace that she then achieves is also striking theologically in the context of Rossetti's larger discussion of Revelation 3.

"Who sits with the King in His Throne" takes on what Ricoeur describes as "the theme of the Psalter": "the surpassing of pathos," or the "movement of wisdom when it transforms suffering into knowing how to suffer" (Ricoeur, p. 90). It is a song of celebration and praise. Whereas the narrative of "From House to Home" moves in the way of wisdom--the kind of literature that expresses the possibility of active suffering, Ricoeur claims, without knowing its divine reason, such as the Book of Job--this lyric moves as an emanation of the active sufferer who recognizes God and who offers thanksgiving. When Rossetti published Verses in 1893, comprised largely of poems from her earlier volumes of devotional prose, her sequencing of poems under headings to signify a spiritual progression lent the section entitled "New Jerusalem and its Citizens" a surprisingly earthly horizon, positioned as it was between "Divers Worlds. Time and Eternity" and "Songs for Strangers and Pilgrims." "New Jerusalem and its Citizens," which includes the poem "Who sits with the King in His Throne," does not conclude Verses; rather, the volume's final section includes further songs, which D'Amico describes as "appropriate for those who are not yet citizens of heaven but who have come to realize that they are strangers and pilgrims in this life." (21) If Verses tracks the speaker's spiritual pilgrimage, as David A. Kent argues, then that pilgrimage has no definitive conclusion in a vision of the New Jerusalem. (22) Instead, the final two poems of the collection convey her confidence in the goal before her while yet "looking back" on her life, thus concluding the volume in the temporal present, a moment in the midst of her journey home. Heaven, while it remains the speaker's clear goal, does not supersede the earthly realm because she never merely looks forward; she never merely values the immaterial over the material. In fact, the immaterial and the eternal include within them the material and the temporal for Rossetti, as they are the means by which fallen humanity can experience the divine. As Dinah Roe explains, she "reads Revelation as a book which, rather than condemning or renouncing the world, teaches [humankind] to redeem the earth and itself" (Roe, p. 198). For Rossetti, that redemption extends even to those figures that the biblical text excludes. "Who sits with the King in His Throne" conflates Babylon with the Bride of Christ, and because its vision of the New Jerusalem appears not at the end of the speaker's spiritual pilgrimage but in the midst of the journey, its inclusive model of redemption informs the rest of that pilgrimage. The opening poem of "New Jerusalem and its Citizens," entitled "The Holy City, New Jerusalem," offers a vision of God's salvation for all--the goal of her journey and the very definition of home:
 Jerusalem, where song nor gem
 Nor fruit nor waters cease,
 God bring us to Jerusalem,
 God bring us home in peace;
 The strong who stand, the weak who fall,
 The first and last, the great and small,
 Home one by one, home one and all. (CP, 2:280).


This is the home toward which her caravan moves, yet in her apocalyptic poetry, that caravan includes more than pilgrims. Rossetti's revelatory verse teaches her readers to speak a message of salvation to "one and all," both "strangers and pilgrims."

That these strangers and pilgrims include the politically powerless and the socially marginalized in the earthly realm becomes clear in Rossetti's description of the Bride of Christ readying herself in Revelation 19.7. In The Face of the Deep, she describes the Bride--the Christian Church, typifying the feminine--coming forth "as swelled by a thousand confluents from a thousand sources some unmeasured river at last attains the measureless ocean"; the Bride prepares herself for Christ "from the thousand battle-fields of the fierce fight of her afflictions":
 Beds of weariness, haunts of starvation, hospital wards, rescue
 homes, orphanages, leper colonies, fires of martyrdom, in these and
 such as these did she set up mirrors whereby to fashion herself
 after Christ's likeness; workhouses, prisons (thank God!), the sea,
 the land, the rocks for a shelter, each and all send up their
 contingent of saints; palaces, hovels, houselessness, homelessness,
 again saints; east, west, north, south, still saints. (p. 436)


To ready oneself for Christ means to fight fiercely against the "afflictions" of both social disease and social injustice so that the residents of prisons are brought to health equally with the starving poor. Nowhere does Rossetti identify the "saints" explicitly with those who enter as outsiders to battle for the afflicted. The mirrors set up to reflect Christ capture the images of both those who rescue and those who are rescued; both "palaces" and "houselessness" produce saints, creating an image of the Church as universal in its reaching all points of the compass. Her understanding of saintliness here figuratively rejects the one espoused by the Reverend William Dodsworth, curate of Christ's Church, Albany Street, where Rossetti and her family attended services beginning in the early 1840s and whose High Anglicanism had a strong influence on her early religious formation. (23) In his tract "What is a Christian?" published in 1844, Dodsworth defines a Christian as a "'saint,' a holy one--one set apart from an evil world for the service of God." (24) While this setting apart seems to mean the renunciation of physical desires rather than separatism for Dodsworth, he concludes in no uncertain terms that "every pious mind must long for" the "separation of Christians from the world" (pp. 10-11). Saintliness in Rossetti's prose commentary, on the other hand, does not separate the Christian from the world, and her incorporation of the body into her vision of salvation does not support a repudiation of the flesh. In her description of the Bride's preparation for Christ's coming in the passage above, the river imagery seems as dissimilar to the sweet waters of "The Holy City, New Jerusalem" as it is to Leviathan's whirlpool of "Who Sits with the King in His Throne," flowing instead from human work for the dispossessed in thousands of ways. In the figure of the Bride of Christ, just as in her apocalyptic poetry from early in her career, Rossetti brings together archetype and real so that the sign of the eternal Kingdom points to and emanates from our material experience.

By retrieving Babylon from a solely symbolic significance in her poetry, Rossetti positions this figure both within the context of her other biblical allusions and within the context of contemporary public discourse about fallen women. It does not seem too far a reach, then, to consider Rossetti's own charitable work with the fallen women of St. Mary Magdalene's on Highgate Hill during the 1860s in light of her apocalyptic poetry. (25) We know from brief references made by her brother William Michael to her first biographer and in his edition of Rossetti's collected poems that she stayed at Highgate for periods of time as an "associate." She refers to such work herself in her letters, claiming to have missed a particular visitor in August of 1859, for example, because she was "away almost the whole time at Highgate." (26) A year later, she writes in another letter about her fundraising efforts for the penitentiary and about shaking the hand of the Bishop of London at such a meeting (Letters, 1:132). While the duration and the nature of her volunteerism remains a matter for speculation, the language used by the London diocese in the prospectus for Highgate makes clear its mission to restore penitents both to peace and to lives of service. The penitents, as Diane D'Amico has so carefully argued, would likely not all have been prostitutes since fallenness included any sexual experience outside of marriage (D'Amico, p. 69). Fittingly, then, Highgate's prospectus does not recognize degrees of impurity but instead employs the language of Revelation to describe this "new effort of the Church of England to recover some of her lost daughters, so that many who now walk the streets of this our Babylon as outcasts, may one day be found within the gates of the New Jerusalem, being cleansed from their sins and made whole in the Blood of the Lamb." (27) While the prospectus reinforces the dichotomy of Babylon and New Jerusalem, it also shows that the Church to which Rossetti belonged believed that fallen women could be redeemed in Christ, and it connects Babylon rhetorically at least with the women of London's streets.

Victorian public discourse about the prostitute may largely "underscore ... her sexual neutrality, her physical invisibility and--a related concept--her function as a symbol or figure rather than human being," as Helena Mitchie claims, yet Rossetti's polyphonic poetic voice seeks to articulate instead a real presence (p. 71). Rossetti does not speak directly about prostitution in her poetry, but the figure of the fallen woman appears repeatedly throughout her career. Certainly Goblin Market, composed just five months after "From House to Home," speaks of the exchange value of the female body in Laura's bartering a lock of her hair for the pleasurable fruits of the goblin men; it stresses the physicality of both Laura's fall and Lizzie's redemptive act, bringing her sister back to health and vitality by allowing her own body to be smeared with fruit and roughly used. Yet because Rossetti stresses the physicality of the female body in complex ways not only in such poems about fallen women but also in those that allude to the Whore of Babylon, she takes a more radical theological position than the fact of her commitment to charitable work for the oppressed would itself indicate. Rossetti's apocalyptic poems "From House to Home" and "Who sits with the King in His Throne" in particular extend forgiveness eschatologically so that the destruction of the archetypal Whore is circumvented and the New Jerusalem encircles all, "double against each other," bringing the body of the fallen woman into the multitude of white-robed worshippers at the end of history. The scope of Rossetti's view of redemption reaches much further than has been acknowledged. Renouncing the limitations of physical pleasure, she does not renounce the body; instead, she asks readers to love the world and the worldly, setting not only our souls aright but also our faces as she turns us toward Jerusalem.

Notes

(1) Robert M. Kachur, "Repositioning the Female Christian Reader: Christina Rossetti as Tractarian Hermeneut in The Face of the Deep," VP 35, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 194. Kachur also discusses briefly Elizabeth Rundle Charles's The Book of the Unveiling: Studies in the Revelation of St. John the Divine, published by the SPCK in the same year, 1892, as an example of such commentary.

(2) Christina Rossetti, The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse (London, 1892; repr. as Vol. 4 of Prose Works of Christina Rossetti, 4 vols., ed. Maria Keaton [Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2003]), p. 7. Hereafter, pages from the reprint will be referred to parenthetically.

(3) For recent studies that examine Rossetti's devotional poetry and prose for their feminist assertions, see Mary Arseneau, Recovering Christina Rossetti: Female Community and Incarnational Poetics (New York: Palgrave, 2004); Diane D'Amico, Christina Rossetti: Faith, Gender, and Time (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1999); Lynda Palazzo, Christina Rossetti's Feminist Theology (New York: Palgrave, 2002); and Dinah Roe, Christina Rossetti's Faithful Imagination: The Devotional Poetry and Prose (New York: Palgrave, 2006).

(4) Nilda Jimenez, The Bible and the Poetry of Christina Rossetti (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1979), pp. xi-xiv.

(5) Palazzo, p. xii. Numerous critics have looked to Tractarian doctrine as an important influence on Rossetti because of those principles that endorse the freedom of individuals to apprehend God's truth for themselves, especially those found in the doctrines of Reserve and Analogy. Diane D'Amico and David A. Kent track the significant scholarship on Rossetti's connections to the Oxford Movement from the briefest of contemporary suggestions to the "foundational work" of G. B. Tennyson's Victorian Devotional Poetry: The Tractarian Mode (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981) to the host of studies that follow, including Arseneau, D'Amico, and Palazzo. See Diane D'Amico and David A. Kent, "Rossetti and the Tractarians," VP 44, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 93-103.

(6) Paul Ricoeur, "Toward a Hermeneutic of the Idea of Revelation," Essays on Biblical Interpretation, ed. Lewis S. Mudge (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), p. 86.

(7) Christina Rossetti, From House to Home, 1.7, in The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti, ed. R. W. Crump, 3 vols. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1979), 1:82-88. All subsequent line references are to this edition, which is cited as CP.

(8) My identification of the two "parts" of the speaker's vision mentioned in lines 1-2 as narrated prior to line 105 follows that of Linda E. Marshall, who describes the swoon and vision of the woman following line 105 as a "double vision"-a repetition of the "double dream of paradise within the soul" prior to 1. 105. See Linda E. Marshall, "Mysteries Beyond Angels in Christina Rossetti's 'From House to Home,'" Women's Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian: Gender and Genre, 1830-1900, ed. Isobel Armstrong and Virginia Blain (London: Macmillan, 1999), p. 314.

(9) Helena Michie, The Flesh Made Word: Female Figures and Women's Bodies (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987), p. 84. She focuses on cliche, synecdoche, and doubled metaphor or metatrope in her analysis of various heroines of Victorian fiction.

(10) All references to the biblical text are to the Authorized King James Version, which is the translation most often used by Rossetti, and all subsequent references will cite chapter and verse.

(11) Dolores Rosenblum, "Christina Rossetti's Religious Poetry: Watching, Looking, Keeping Vigil," VP 20, no. 1 (Spring 1982): 33-49.

(12) These allusions are indirect enough that Jimenez does not include any references to Revelation 17 in "From House to Home" in her concordance. She explains in her introduction that she lists only the instances when Rossetti "integrates exact phrases into her poems and uses lines that refer directly and unequivocally to a definite Biblical passage" (p. viii).

(13) Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgement, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), p. 217. She argues against those feminist critics whose deconstructionist interpretations of Revelation use "an archetypal approach that reinscribes and naturalizes the andro/kyriocentric feminine representation of the text as a self-evident and self-contained totality" and that her own anti-imperialist approach opens up its representations of the female to multiple significations--race, class, and nation--and exemplifies a different feminist interpretation, one that is not essentialist or ethnocentric. Rossetti takes "an archetypal approach" at the same time as she connects Babylon to real women, which Schussler Fiorenza clearly resists, yet like Schussler Fiorenza, Rossetti avoids reinscribing a determinism based on gender (p. 7).

(14) D'Arnico, Christina Rossetti, Faith, Gender, and Time, p. 165.

(15) Colleen Hobbs discusses briefly how the sonnet following Rossetti's commentary on Revelation 17.4 suggests an ambiguous interpretation of Babylon because it is addressed to "Our Mothers" and "Our Sisters," as though "the symbol John assigns to filthiness and fornication is not simply the Whore of Babylon: she is our mother, she is our sister" (p. 423). While Hobbs's larger argument focuses on Rossetti's position within a female tradition of visionary mysticism, she recognizes briefly here the "rebuke" to readers of Revelation who have no pity for the fallen (Colleen Hobbs, "A View from 'The Lowest Place': Christina Rossetti's Devotional Prose," VP 32, nos. 3-4 [1994]: 409-428).

(16) O'Brien, Carmel, "Apocalyptic Patience in the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti," Australasian Victorian Studies Journal 4 (1998): 47.

(17) Palazzo, p. 21. Palazzo argues here against a long line of critics who identify Rossetti's aesthetic as one of renunciation and who point to "From House to Home" as evidence. See, for example, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 571-575, and Antony H. Harrison, Christina Rossetti in Context (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 129-131.

(18) Barbara Garlick, "Defacing the Self: Christina Rossetti's The Face of the Deep as Absolution," in Tradition and the Poetics of Self in Nineteenth-Century Women's Poetry, ed. Barbara Garlick (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002), p. 168.

(19) Rossetti published an earlier poem with strong affinities to this one in Time Flies, in which the "King of King's Daughter" is described as similarly dove-like and in which Rossetti alludes to both Revelation 12 and Song of Solomon. Despite the Bride-Daughter's more uniform "heavenliness" in the earlier poem, however, she, too, comes "From the fiery-flying-serpent wilderness" seemingly far-removed from heaven above (Time Flies, London, 1885; repr. as Vol. 3 of Prose Works of Christina Rossetti, p. 208).

(20) Dinah Roe has a helpful discussion of the figure of the Bride in The Face of the Deep as compared to Time Flies. She argues that in The Face of the Deep, the Bride "is extrapolated from both the Old and New Testaments, so that she symbolizes both the Christian Church and the legacy of her Jewish foremothers" (p. 126). In the prose commentary on Revelation, then, Rossetti makes the heavenly Bride a figure of woman's faithfulness, one who has been transformed into the likeness of Christ. See pp. 126-130.

(21) D'Amico, Christina Rossetti, Faith, Gender, and Time, p. 170.

(22) David A. Kent, "Sequence and Meaning in Christina Rossetti's Verses (1893)," VP 17 (1979): 259-264.

(23) For a discussion of the dates of the Rossetti family's membership at Christ Church, see John O. Waller, "Christ's Second Coming: Christina Rossetti and the Premillennialist William Dodsworth," Bulletin of the New York Public Library 73 (1969): 465.

(24) Rev. William Dodsworth, What is a Christian? (London, 1844), p. 4.

(25) Here I take exception to Diane D'Amico's categorizing of the fallen woman poems as separate from those that allude to Babylon. See n. 25 in Diane D'Amico, "'Equal before God': Christina Rossetti and the Fallen Women of Highgate Penitentiary," Gender and Discourse in Victorian Literature and Art, ed. Antony H. Harrison and Beverly Taylor (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 67-83.

(26) The Letters of Christina Rossetti, ed. Antony H. Harrison, 4 vols. (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1997), 1:125.

(27) Qtd. in Jan Marsh, Christina Rossetti: A Writer's Life (New York, Viking, 1995), p. 220.
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Date:Mar 22, 2011
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