The Blessed Damozel *
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.
Mythology: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,
VENUS VERTICORDIAShe 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.
FOUND"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!"
Go to the painting of "SEA-SPELL" on Rossetti's "Stunners"
SEA-SPELLHer 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?
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
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.
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)