D. Rossetti

Lizzie Siddal

Rossetti's Stunners

Dante Gabriel Rossetti DANTE ROSSETTI
His paintings and poems

Dante Rossetti. Self-portrait

The Blessed Damozel *

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (May 12, 1828 - April 10, 1882) 
The Blessed Damozel (Alexa Wilding) - Oil on Canvas 
Lady Lever Gallery (Liverpool)

The blessed damozel lean'd out
    From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
    Of waters still'd at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
    And the stars in her hair were seven.

Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
    No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift,
   For service meetly worn;
Her hair that lay along her back
    Was yellow like ripe corn.

Her seem'd she scarce had been a day
    One of God's choristers;
The wonder was not yet quite gone
    From that still look of hers;
Albeit, to them she left, her day
    Had counted as ten years.

(To one, it is ten years of years.
    ... Yet now, and in this place,
Surely she lean'd o'er me - her hair
    Fell all about my face...
Nothing: the autumn-fall of leaves.
    The whole year sets apace.)

It was the rampart of God's house
    That she was standing on;
By God built over the sheer depth
    The which is Space begun;
So high, that looking downward thence
    She scarce could see the sun.

It lies in Heaven, across the flood
    Of ether, as a bridge.
Beneath, the tides of day and night
    With flame and darkness ridge
The void, as low as where this earth
    Spins like a fretful midge.

Around her, lovers, newly met
    'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
Spoke evermore among themselves
    Their heart-remember'd names;
And the souls mounting up to God
    Went by her like thin flames.

And still she bow'd herself and stoop'd
    Out of the circling charm;
Until her bosom must have made
    The bar she lean'd on warm,
And the lilies lay as if asleep
    Along her bended arm.

From the fix'd place of Heaven she saw
    Time like a pulse shake fierce
Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
    Within the gulf to pierce
Its path; and now she spoke as when
    The stars sang in their spheres.

The sun was gone now; the curl'd moon
    Was like a little feather
Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
    She spoke through the still weather.
Her voice was like the voice the stars
      Had when they sang together.

(Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird's song,
    Strove not her accents there,
Fain to be hearken'd? When those bells
    Possess'd the mid-day air,
Strove not her steps to reach my side
    Down all the echoing stair?)

"I wish that he were come to me,
    For he will come," she said.
"Have I not pray'd in Heaven? - on earth,
    Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd?
Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
    And shall I feel afraid?

"When round his head the aureole clings,
    And he is cloth'd in white,
I'll take his hand and go with him
    To the deep wells of light;
As unto a stream we will step down,
    And bathe there in God's sight.

"We two will stand beside that shrine,
    Occult, withheld, untrod,
Whose lamps are stirr'd continually
    With prayer sent up to God;
And see our old prayers, granted, melt
    Each like a little cloud.

"We two will lie i' the shadow of
    That living mystic tree
Within whose secret growth the Dove
    Is sometimes felt to be,
While every leaf that His plumes touch
    Saith His Name audibly.

"And I myself will teach to him,
    I myself, lying so,
The songs I sing here; which his voice
    Shall pause in, hush'd and slow,
And find some knowledge at each pause,
    Or some new thing to know."

(Alas! We two, we two, thou say'st!
    Yea, one wast thou with me
That once of old. But shall God lift
   To endless unity
The soul whose likeness with thy soul
    was but its love for thee?)

"We two," she said, "will seek the groves
    Where the lady Mary is,
With her five handmaidens, whose names
    Are five sweet symphonies,
Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
    Margaret and Rosalys.

"Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
    And foreheads garlanded;
Into the fine cloth white like flame
    Weaving the golden thread,
To fashion the birth-robes for them
    Who are just born, being dead.

"He shall fear, haply, and be dumb:
    Then will I lay my cheek
To his, and tell about our love,
    Not once abash'd or weak:
And the dear Mother will approve
    My pride, and let me speak.

"Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
    To Him round whom all souls
Kneel, the clear-rang'd unnumber'd heads
    Bow'd with their aureoles:
And angels meeting us shall sing
    To their citherns and citoles.

"There will I ask of Christ the Lord
    Thus much for him and me: -
Only to live as once on earth
    With Love, - only to be,
As then awhile, for ever now
    Together, I and he."

She gaz'd and listen'd and then said,
    Less sad of speech than mild, -
"All this is when he comes." She ceas'd.
    The light thrill'd towards her, fill'd
With angels in strong level flight.
    Her eyes pray'd, and she smil'd.

(I saw her smile.) But soon their path
    Was vague in distant spheres:
And then she cast her arms along
    The golden barriers,
And laid her face between her hands,
    And wept. (I heard her tears.)

*Rossetti used his most famous poem as the inspiration
for this painting 25 years after publishing it. He wrote
the first version of 'The Blessed Damozel' in 1847.
The theme was inspired by Dante Alighieri.
The maiden leans out of her balcony in heaven while
behind her newly reconciled lovers embrace one another
among the deathless roses of heaven. She sees her lover
lying fully corporal on earth and yearns for his death,
so that he might join her forever in heaven.
The seven stars are The Pleiads. One star is hidden
behind her head.


The Pleiads were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione.
"The lost pleiad" is Electra, who veiled her face at the burning
of Troy, appearing to mortals afterwards only as a comet...

Donna della Fiamma, Bionda del Balcone,
Mariana & Pandora

The Annunciation

The Anunciation - Ecce Ancilla Domini 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1850
Oil on canvas - Tate Gallery, London

His sister Christina Rossetti modelled as the 'anxious' Virgin Mary
The painting caused scandal in certain circles of the Anglican church,
because Mary was sitting on her bed...

Beata Beatrice (1863) - Bower Meadow (1872)

Tate Gallery, London Manchester City Art Galleries

-Rossetti painted 'Beata Beatrix' as a memorial to his wife
Lizzie Siddal, who died of a laudanum overdose.
The painting shows the mystical transition of Dante's Beatrice
from earth to heaven.
-The landscape of 'Bower Meadow' was painted 22 years before
the women were added. Marie Spartali Stillman (left)
and Alexa Wilding (right). May, Jane Morris' daughter
is dancing in the background.


She hath the apple in her hand for thee, Yet almost in her heart would hold it back; She muses, with her eyes upon the track Of that which in thy spirit they can see. Haply, "Behold, he is at peace," saith she; "Alas! the apple for his lips, - the dart That follows its brief sweetness to his heart, - The wandering of his feet perpetually!" A little space her glance is still and coy, But if she gives the fruit that works her spell, Those eyes shall flame as for her Phrygian boy. Then shall her bird's strained throat the woe foretell, And her far seas moan as a single shell, And through her dark grove strike the light of Troy.

Go to the painting of  "Venus Verticordia" on  Rossetti's "Stunners"

Lady Lilith

Oil on canvas (1868 & 1872-73) - Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.
The model is Alexa Wilding.


Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
The rose and poppy are her flower; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.

(Collected Works)
Lilith was Adam's first wife. She was a seductress and demon woman
who gave birth only to bad people and who wanted equal rights
(=equal rights for women).


At length their long kiss severed, with sweet smart:
And as the last slow sudden drops are shed
From sparkling eaves when all the storm has fled,
So singly flagged the pulses of each heart.
Their bosoms sundered, with the opening start
Of married flowers to either side outspread
From the knit stem; yet still their mouths, burnt red,
Fawned on each other where they lay apart.

Sleep sank them lower than the tide of dreams,
And their dreams watched them sink, and slid away.
Slowly their souls swam up again, through gleams
Of watered light and dull drowned waifs of day;
Till from some wonder of new woods and streams
He woke, and wondered more: for there she lay.

Astarte Syriaca


*'Astarte Syriaca' - Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(Oil on Canvas) - City Art Gallery (Manchester)

MYSTERY: lo! betwixt the sun and moon
Astarte of the Syrians: Venus Queen
Ere Aphrodite was. In silver sheen
Her twofold girdle clasps the infinite boon
Of bliss whereof the heaven and earth commune:
And from her neck's inclining flower-stem lean
Love-freighted lips and absolute eyes that wean
The pulse of hearts to the sphere's dominant tune.

Torch-bearing, her sweet ministers compel
All thrones of light beyond the sky and sea
The witnesses of Beauty's face to be:
That face, of Love's all-penetrative spell
Amulet, talisman, and oracle,-
Betwixt the sun and moon a mystery.


Astarte was the goddess of fertility and love
in ancient Eastern religions and was particularly
important to the Phoenicians. Astarte Syriaca means
'Syrian Aphrodite'.
Jane Morris (photo)* sat for 'Venus Astarte'.

Fanny Cornforth, one of Rossetti's models
and a former prostitute, was also one of
his mistresses. She remained his companion
and housekeeper into old age.

Fazio's Mistress

Oil on Canvas - Tate Gallery, London (1863)

Fanny Cornforth modelled for this painting


Oil on Canvas (1853-88). Delaware Art Museum - USA

Fanny Cornforth also modelled for "Found".
The prostitute on the painting is the drover's
former sweetheart.
The net holding the calf symbolizes the web
of sin in which the woman is caught.


"There is a budding morrow in midnight:" - So sang our Keats, our English nightingale. And here, as lamps across the bridge turn pale In London's smokeless resurrection-light, Dark breaks to dawn. But o'er the deadly blight Of Love deflowered and sorrow of none avail, Which makes this man gasp and this woman quail, Can day from darkness ever again take flight? Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge, Under one mantle sheltered 'neath the hedge In gloaming courtship? And, O God! to-day He only knows he holds her; - but what part Can life now take? She cries in her locked heart, - "Leave me - I do not know you - go away!"


'Proserpine' (Persephone) 1874
Tate Gallery, London

'Proserpine' was painted at Kelmscott Manor where Rossetti
and Jane Morris (Jane Burdon) spent a lot of time together
between 1871 and 1874. She had become his mistress after
the death of Lizzie Siddal.
Persephone (Proserpine) was a daughter of Zeus and the Greek
fertility goddess Demeter (Ceres). Hades (Pluto) condemned
Persephone to eternity in the underworld, because she had
eaten the forbidden fruit (pomegranate seeds). She was
allowed to return to the surface of the earth for part of
the year. Persephone was also a personification of spring.


Her lute hangs shadowed in the apple-tree, While flashing fingers weave the sweet-strung spell Between its chords; and as the wild notes swell, The sea-bird for those branches leaves the sea. But to what sound her listening ear stoops she? What netherworld gulf-whispers doth she hear, In answering echoes from what planisphere, Along the wind, along the estuary? She sinks into her spell: and when full soon Her lips move and she soars into her song, What creatures of the midmost main shall throng In furrowed surf-clouds to the summoning rune: Till he, the fated mariner, hears her cry, And up her rock, bare-breasted, comes to die?
Go to the painting of  "SEA-SPELL" on Rossetti's "Stunners"


Once more the changed year's turning wheel returns:
And as a girl sails balanced in the wind,
And now before and now again behind
Stoops as it swoops, with cheek that laughs and burns, -
So Spring comes merry towards me here, but earns
No answering smile from me, whose life is twin'd
With the dead boughs that winter still must bind,
And whom today the Spring no more concerns.

Behold, this crocus is a withering flame;
This snowdrop, snow; this apple-blossom's part
To breed the fruit that breeds the serpent's art.
Nay, for these Spring-flowers, turn thy face from them,
Nor stay till on the year's last lily-stem
The white cup shrivels round the golden heart.


Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass, -
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
'Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky: -
So this wing'd hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.


Dante Rossetti in het Nederlands

Dead Poets Society (English)

Christina Rossetti (English)

Poëzieweb - Poetryweb (home)


His father was the Italian exile Gabriele Rossetti
(1783-1854). His mother Frances Polidori (1800-1886),
was Anglo-Italian on her father's side. Dante Rossetti
had two sisters and a brother who were all remarkable.
His older sister Maria Francesca (1827-1876) wrote
essays on Dante Alighieri and became an Anglican nun.
Christina (1830-1894) was a distinguished poetess
and his brother William Michael (1829-1919) was also
a writer. He edited Dante Rossetti's work and served
as the first archivist and historian of the Pre-Raphaelite
movement *.
In 1849 Dante Rossetti met the beautiful Elizabeth
Siddal (1829-1862). He painted and drew her obsessively.
They married in 1860, but two years later Elizabeth
died of an overdose of laudanum (suicide?!).
Rossetti buried the manuscript of a number of his poems
with her. This romantic gesture was undone however
in the summer of 1869, when he had them exhumed...
In the fifties and sixties Rossetti's imagination was
also enamored by his other idealized women: Fanny
Cornforth (1835?-1905), Ruth Herbert, Alexa Wilding,
Annie Miller, Marie Spartali and last but not least
Jane Burden (1839-1914).
They modelled for his paintings and most of them had
a love-affair with him.
In the late sixties Rossetti began to suffer from
headaches and weakened eyesight. He began to take
chloral mixed with whisky to cure his insomnia.
Unfortunately chloral accentuated his depression
and latent paranoia. In the summer of 1872 he had
a serious mental breakdown and was taken to Scotland,
where he attempted suicide. He slowly recovered but
died of kidney failure on April 9, 1882.

© Gaston D'Haese

The Pre-Raphaelites

They were a brotherhood of English painters and poets
formed in 1848 in protest against the low standards
of British art. The principal founders were Dante Rossetti,
William Holman Hunt, and John Millais.
In poetry as well as in painting, the Pre-Raphaelites
turned away from the growing materialism of industrialized
England. They sought refuge, in the beauty of the medieval
world. In the works of the Italian painters prior to Raphael*,
they found a style that they tried to imitate.
The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites are nostalgic in tone,
bright in color and mannered in style.

*Raphael: Raffaello Sanzio (Urbino 1483 - Rome 1520)


Rossetti's "Stunners"

Dante Rossetti - Jenny

Dante Rossetti - The woodspurge

Dante Rossetti - In het Nederlands

Dead Poets Society

Lizzie Siddal - Poems & paintings

Lizzie Siddal in het Nederlands

Christina Rossetti - Poetry


Pageviews since 21-03-2002. 
© Gaston D'Haese: 27-06-2003.
Update: 12-11-2019.

Statist. Poëzieweb-Poetryweb:

Statist. Poëzieweb-Poetryweb: