The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Common Holly Bears A Berry

Alternate Title: Golden Holly

Words: Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894), Circa 1872

See: Christmastide Poems of Christina Rossetti

Source: The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, with a Memoir and Notes by William Michael Rossetti (1904), page 426.

Common Holly bears a berry
To make Christmas Robins merry: –
Golden Holly bears a rose,
Unfolding at October's close
To cheer an old Friend's eyes and nose.

Note by William Michael Rossetti: "This trifle, owing to its association of old and uninterrupted friendship, I was unwilling in 1896 to omit: and I know now that I ought not to have omitted it, for Mr. Swinburne pronounced it an excellent thing. It was addressed to Holman [Holly] Frederic Stephens, then a little boy, son of our constant friend, Frederic George Stephens (one of the seven members of the 'P. R. B.'). Tennyson once saw the child in the Isle of Wight, and pronounced him (not unreasonably) to be 'the most beautiful boy I have ever seen.' Mr. Stephens senior, in sending me the verses at my rest, wrote that they refer 'to H. F. S.'s frequent pet name of "The Golden Holly," given because of the brightness of his long hair, as well as his birthday being on October 31. He had sent a tea-rose to C. G. R.' (page 492)

Note: "P.R.B." refers to "PræRaphaelite Brotherhood." The founders of the Brotherhood were the painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais (1829-1896), James Collinson (1825-1881), Frederic George Stephens (1828-1907), sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825-1892), and writer William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), brother of the painer Dante Rossetti and, of course, the poet Christina Rossetti. Christina wrote two poems about the P.R.B. in 1863 (page 424 of "The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti" by WM Rossetti, about whom she writes:

William Rossetti, calm and solemn,
Cuts up his brethren by the column.

At that time, William Rossetti was the art critic of "The Spectator." William responded: "This joke was not historically true; I upheld, with such vigour as was in me, the cause of the Praeraphaelites, and my articles, being at first solitary in that tone of criticism, passed not wholly unobserved." (page 491)

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