Rossetti Mock Examination Paper

This might save you a bit of time, but be aware that I have created the questions myself and they are not from a past paper.

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Section B

Answer one question from this section:

CHRISTINA ROSSETTI: Selected Poems

Either            (a)       ‘Rossetti’s poetry communicates a struggle between her faith and dedication to God and her desire to be fulfilled as a wife and a mother.’

Referring to three poems, discuss how this struggle is demonstrated.

            Or       (b)       Commenting closely on language, imagery and structure, write a critical appreciation of Rossetti’s methods and concerns in the following poem and across your selection:

A Royal Princess

I, a princess, king-descended, decked with jewels, gilded, drest,
Would rather be a peasant with her baby at her breast,
For all I shine so like the sun, and am purple like the west.

Two and two my guards behind, two and two before,
Two and two on either hand, they guard me evermore;
Me, poor dove, that must not coo – eagle that must not soar.

All my fountains cast up perfumes, all my gardens grow
Scented woods and foreign spices, with all flowers in blow
That are costly, out of season as the seasons go.

All my walls are lost in mirrors, whereupon I trace
Self to right hand, self to left hand, self in every place,
Self-same solitary figure, self-same seeking face.

Then I have an ivory chair high to sit upon,
Almost like my father’s chair, which is an ivory throne;
There I sit uplift and upright, there I sit alone.

Alone by day, alone by night, alone days without end;
My father and my mother give me treasures, search and spend –
O my father! O my mother! have you ne’er a friend?

As I am a lofty princess, so my father is
A lofty king, accomplished in all kingly subtleties,
Holding in his strong right hand world-kingdoms’ balances.

He has quarrelled with his neighbours, he has scourged his foes;
Vassal counts and princes follow where his pennon goes,
Long-descended valiant lords whom the vulture knows.

On who track the vulture swoops, when they ride in state
To break the strength of armies and topple down the great;
Each of these my courteous servant, none of these my mate.

My father counting up his strength sets down with equal pen
So many head of cattle, head of horses, head of men;
These for slaughter, these for breeding, with the how and when.

Some to work on roads, canals; some to man his ships;
Some to smart in mines beneath sharp overseers’ whips;
Some to trap fur-beasts in lands where utmost winter nips.

Once it came into my heart, and whelmed me like a flood,
That these too are men and women, human flesh and blood;
Men with hearts and men with souls though trodden down like mud.

Our feasting was not glad that night, our music was not gay;
On my mother’s graceful head I marked a thread of grey,
My father frowning at the fare seemed every dish to weigh.

I sat beside them sole princess in my exalted place,
My ladies and my gentlemen stood by me on the dais;
A mirror showed me I look old and haggard in the face;

It showed me that my ladies all are fair to gaze upon,
Plump, plenteous-haired, to every one love’s secret lore is known,
They laugh by day, they sleep by night; ah me, what is a throne?

The singing men and women sang that night as usual,
The dancers danced in pairs and sets, but music had a fall,
A melancholy windy fall as at a funeral.

Amid the toss of torches to my chamber back we swept;
My ladies loosed my golden chain; meantime I could have wept
To think of some in galling chains whether they waked or slept.

I took my bath of scented milk, delicately waited on,
They burned sweet things for my delight, cedar and cinnamom,
They lit my shaded silver lamp, and left me there alone.

A day went by, a week went by. One day I heard it said:
‘Men are clamouring, women, children, clamouring to be fed;
Men like famished dogs are howling in the streets for bread.’

So two whispered by my door, not thinking I could hear,
Vulgar naked truth, ungarnished for a royal ear;
Fit for cooping in the background, not to stalk so near.

But I strained my utmost sense to catch this truth, and mark:
‘There are families out grazing like cattle in the park.’
‘A pair of peasants must be saved even if we build an ark.’

A merry jest, a merry laugh, each strolled upon his way;
One was my page, a lady I reared and bore with day by day;
One was my youngest maid as sweet and white as cream in May.

Other footsteps followed softly with a weightier tramp;
Voices said: ‘Picked soldiers have been summoned from the camp
To quell these base-born ruffians who make free to howl and stamp.’

‘Howl and stamp?’ one answered: ‘ They made free to hurl a stone
At the minister’s state coach, well aimed and stoutly thrown.’
‘There’s work then for the soldiers, for this rank crop must be mown.’

‘One I saw, a poor old fool with ashes on his head,
Whimpering because a girl had snatched his crust of bread;
Then he dropped; when some one raised him, it turned out her was dead.’

‘After us the deluge,’ was retorted with a laugh:
‘If bread’s the staff of life, they must walk without a staff.’
‘While I’ve a loaf they’re welcome to my blessing and the chaff.’

These passed. The king: stand up. Said my father with a smile:
‘Daughter mine, your mother comes to sit with you awhile,
She’s sad to-day, and who but you her sadness can beguile?’

He too left me. Shall I touch my harp now while I wait, –
(I hear them doubling guard below before our palace gate -)
Or shall I work the last gold stitch into my veil of state;

Or shall my woman stand and read some unimpassioned scene,
There’s music of a lulling sort in words that pause between;
Or shall she merely fan me while I wait here for the queen?

Again I caught my father’s voice in sharp word of command:
‘Charge!’ a clash of steel: ‘Charge again, the rebels stand,
Smite and spare not, hand to hand; smite and spare not, hand to hand.’

There swelled a tumult at the gate, high voices waxing higher;
A flash of red reflected light lit the cathedral spire;
I heard a cry for faggots, then I heard a yell for fire.

‘Sit and roast there with you meant, sit and bake there with your bread,
You who sat to see us starve,’ one shrieking woman said:
‘Sit on your throne and roast with your crown upon your head.’

Nay, this thing will I do, while my mother tarrieth,
I will take my fine spun gold, but not to sew therewith,
I will take my gold and gems, and rainbow fan and wreath;

With a ransom in my lap, a king’s ransom in my hand,
I will go down to this people, will stand face to face, will stand
Where they curse king, queen, and princess of this cursed land.

They shall take all to buy them bread, take all I have to give;
I, if I perish, perish; they to-day shall eat and live;
I, if I perish, perish; that’s the goal I half conceive:

Once to speak before the world, rend bare my heart and show
The lesson I have learned which is death, is life, to know,
I, if I perish, perish; in the name of God I go.

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Section B

Answer one question from this section:

CHRISTINA ROSSETTI: Selected Poems

Either            (a)       ‘Rossetti’s poetry is preoccupied with the idea of death and the next life.’

Referring to three poems, discuss how Rossetti explores the theme of death.

            Or       (b)       Commenting closely on language, imagery and structure, write a critical appreciation of Rossetti’s methods and concerns in the following poem and across your selection:

   A Better Resurrection

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears.
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

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