Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) was a poet and painter, and a leading spirit in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was an attempt to bring the Romantic spirit into a realm of art still dominated by a decadent classicism. This second Romanticism he applied to poetry, highlighting the sensuous touches which had been the hallmark of Keats. Rossetti, combined spiritual vision with sensuality very deftly.
The peculiarity of this “Fleshly School of Poetry” is the effect gained by close attention to detail. In spite of his being too much of a Victorian with preoccupations with intellectual and moral considerations, the result of Pre-Raphaelitism was the down pedaling of the moral element. Aestheticism of Oscar Wilde was the child of Pre-Raphaelitism.
The atmosphere of the poem featured here is one of the ‘religiosity’ than that of religion. The influence of Keats is apparent everywhere. The poem can be compared with some Pre-Raphaelite paintings to a good advantage of the reader.
Let me present to you the text of the poem before I say a few words about the pictorial quality of the same.
The Blessed Damozel
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The blessed damozel leaned out (Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird’s song,
From the gold bar of Heaven; Strove not her accents there,
Her eyes were deeper than the depth Fain to be hearkened? When those bells
Of waters stilled at even; Possessed the mid-day air,
She had three lilies in her hand, Strove not her steps to reach my side
And the stars in her hair were seven. Down all the echoing stair?)
Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem, “I wish that he were come to me,
No wrought flowers did adorn, For he will come,” she said,
But a white rose of Mary’s gift, “Have I not prayed in Heaven?–on earth,
For service meetly worn; Lord, Lord, has he not prayed?
Her hair lay along her back Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
Was yellow like ripe corn And shall I feel afraid?
Herseemed she scarce had been a day “When round his head the aureole clings,
One of God’s choristers; And he is clothed in white,
The wonder was not yet quite gone I’ll take is hand and go with him,
From that still look of hers; To the deep wells of light;
Albeit, to them she left, her day As unto a steam we will step down,
Had counted as ten years. And bathe there in God’s sight.
(To one, it was ten years of years, “We two will stand beside that shrine,
…Yet now, in this place, Occult withheld, untrod
Surely she leaned o’er me — her hair Whose lamps are stirred continually
Fell all about my face ….. With prayers sent up to God;