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The Lowest Place(1866)

Christina Rossetti

Give me the lowest place: not that I dare
MeterGive me the lowest place: not that I dare
Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died
MeterAsk for that lowest place, but Thou hast died
That I might live and share
MeterThat I might live and share
Thy glory by Thy side.
MeterThy glory by Thy side.

Give me the lowest place: or if for me
MeterGive me the lowest place: or if for me
That lowest place too high, make one more low
MeterThat lowest place too high, make one more low
Where I may sit and see
MeterWhere I may sit and see
My God and love Thee so.
MeterMy God and love Thee so.

Note on line 8: In this lucid poem the paradox of petitionary prayer — where after all the speaker is, notwithstanding her undoubted humility, telling God how to arrange things — may be figured in the peculiarity of its stanzaic shape. Rossetti might have grouped exactly the same order of words into tetrameter quatrains of the common measure typical in hymns. (Try it, and see how readily that more ordinary pattern appears.) But that’s not what Rossetti was after. Instead she lengthened some lines into deliberative pentameter and crowded the others into intimate trimeter. It is a bonus of this configuration — a triumph of positioning, in a poem about “place” — to enjamb every single line, expressing an urgency of speculation that wouldn’t be there in the foursquare scheme.


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