Born in London to Italian refugees, her father was a professor of Italian at King’s College, London. It is said that during her childhood, she was “surrounded by Italian exiles and English eccentrics,” which may be a rich medium in which to grow an affinity for poetry. Her grandfather published her first verses when she was just twelve.
Her much-loved “In the bleak mid-winter” is familiar both as a Christmas carol (#44 in our Hymnal, with a tune by Gustav Holst) and as an anthem, set by Harold Darke (1888-1976), which our choir has sung during Christmas services.
Less well known is her evocative “Advent (1858),” a meditation on the paradoxes of waiting for Christ’s return. It includes the lines:
We weep because the night is long,
We laugh for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
“Advent (1858)” has been set to music by Charles Giffen (born 1940) and sung by our choir.