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From Fred Sanders :

Two sisters sit at home, talking. The younger sister does needlework and arranges flowers picked from the garden, as she passes the time until her boyfriend comes to visit.

The older sister, on the other hand, is trying to make some kind of sense out of her wasted life, having an emotional crisis brought on by yesterday’s reading of the Iliad .

“Old Homer leaves a sting,” she complains.

“Sweet, tell me what is Homer’s sting, Old Homer’s sting?” teases the younger sister.

The older sister replies:

He stirs my sluggish pulse like wine,
He melts me like the wind of spice,
Strong as strong Ajax’ red right hand,
And grand like Juno’s eyes.

Yes, the older sister speaks similes and comparisons in a beautifully-rhymed iambic tetrameter. They both do. Did I mention this was all in a poem?

The poem is “ The Lowest Room ,” by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894).

It’s a conversation-poem in which the sisters come to terms with their own lives, by comparing them to the lives of the Homeric heroes of the Iliad.

[ . . . ]

There are lots of reasons to read Christina Rossetti, but here’s one of them: She knew how to read Homer. She brought to the Iliad everything she had and everything she was –her broad education, her Victorian womanhood, her vast potentials and her searing limitations. But above all, she brought to the reading of Homer her deep faith in Christ.

Read more . . .

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