The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle

The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle

by Cecil Y. Lang

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This useful volume presents the major works of the five leading Pre-Raphaelite poets. Foremost in the collection, and included in their entirety are D. G. Rossetti's The House of Life, C. G. Rossetti's "Monna Innominata," William Morris's "Defence of Guenevere," Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon, and Meredith's "Modern Love." Complementing these major poems is a fine, generous selection of the poets' shorter pieces that are typical of their work as a whole. For this second edition, Cecil Lang has substituted two early Swinburne poems, "The Leper" and "Anactoria," for Fitzgerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. These poems, which the editor describes as "shocking," show a new aspect of Swinburne not discussed previously.  
Lang's Introduction describes briefly the founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, discusses each of the Pre-Raphaelite poets, both individually and in relation to the others, and grapples with the questions of definition of Pre-Raphaelitism and the similarities between its painting and poetry. The book is appropriately illustrated with thirty-two works by D. G. Rossetti, John Ruskin, William H. Hunt, and other Pre-Raphaelite artists.

This is the only anthology available that provides a representative selection of the work of these important poets. It will be indispensable to students of Victorian poetry and appreciated by readers interested in the Pre-Raphaelites.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226228389
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 05/16/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 571
File size: 9 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle

By Cecil Y. Lang

The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 1975 The University of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-226-46866-2


Dante Gabriel Rossetti


    The blessed damozel leaned out
      From the gold bar of Heaven;
    Her eyes were deeper than the depth
      Of waters stilled 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.

    Herseemed 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 leaned 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-remembered names;
    And the souls mounting up to God
      Went by her like thin flames.

    And still she bowed herself and stooped
      Out of the circling charm;
    Until her bosom must have made
      The bar she leaned on warm,
    And the lilies lay as if asleep
      Along her bended arm.

    From the fixed 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 curled 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 hearkened? When those bells
      Possessed 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 prayed 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 clothed 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 stirred 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, hushed 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 abashed 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-ranged unnumbered heads
      Bowed 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 gazed and listened and then said,
      Less sad of speech than mild, —
    "All this is when he comes." She ceased.
      The light thrilled towards her, fill'd
    With angels in strong level flight.
      Her eyes prayed, 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.)
    [1847] [1850; 1870]


    She fell asleep on Christmas Eve:
      At length the long-ungranted shade
      Of weary eyelids overweigh'd
    The pain nought else might yet relieve.

    Our mother, who had leaned all day
      Over the bed from chime to chime,
      Then raised herself for the first time,
    And as she sat her down, did pray.

    Her little work-table was spread
      With work to finish. For the glare
      Made by her candle, she had care
    To work some distance from the bed.

    Without, there was a cold moon up,
      Of winter radiance sheer and thin;
      The hollow halo it was in
    Was like an icy crystal cup.

    Through the small room, with subtle sound
      Of flame, by vents the fireshine drove
      And reddened. In its dim alcove
    The mirror shed a clearness round.

    I had been sitting up some nights,
      And my tired mind felt weak and blank;
      Like a sharp strengthening wine it drank
    The stillness and the broken lights.

    Twelve struck. That sound, by dwindling years
      Heard in each hour, crept off; and then
      The ruffled silence spread again,
    Like water that a pebble stirs.

    Our mother rose from where she sat:
      Her needles, as she laid them down,
      Met lightly, and her silken gown
    Settled: no other noise than that.

    "Glory unto the Newly Born!"
      So, as said angels, she did say;
      Because we were in Christmas Day,
    Though it would still be long till morn.

    Just then in the room over us
      There was a pushing back of chairs,
      As some who had sat unawares
    So late, now heard the hour, and rose.

    With anxious softly-stepping haste
      Our mother went where Margaret lay,
      Fearing the sounds o'erheard — should they
    Have broken her long watched-for rest!

    She stooped an instant, calm, and turned;
      But suddenly turned back again;
      And all her features seemed in pain
    With woe, and her eyes gazed and yearned.

    For my part, I but hid my face,
      And held my breath, and spoke no word:
      There was none spoken; but I heard
    The silence for a little space.

    Our mother bowed herself and wept:
      And both my arms fell, and I said,
      "God knows I knew that she was dead."
    And there, all white, my sister slept.

    Then kneeling, upon Christmas morn
      A little after twelve o'clock
      We said, ere the first quarter struck,
    "Christ's blessing on the newly born!"
    [1847-49] [1850; 1870]


    (For a Picture)


    This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
      God's Virgin. Gone is a great while, and she
      Dwelt young in Nazareth of Galilee.
    Unto God's will she brought devout respect,
    Profound simplicity of intellect,
      And supreme patience. From her mother's knee
      Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;
    Strong in grave peace; in pity circumspect.

    So held she through her girlhood; as it were
      An angel-watered lily, that near God
      Grows and is quiet. Till, one dawn at home
    She woke in her white bed, and had no fear
      At all, — yet wept till sunshine, and felt awed:
        Because the fulness of the time was come.
    [1848] [1849; 1870]


    These are the symbols. On that cloth of red
      I' the centre is the Tripoint: perfect each,
      Except the second of its points, to teach
    That Christ is not yet born. The books — whose head
    Is golden Charity, as Paul hath said —
      Those virtues are wherein the soul is rich:
      Therefore on them the lily standeth, which
    Is Innocence, being interpreted.

    The seven-thorn'd briar and the palm seven-leaved
      Are her great sorrow and her great reward.
        Until the end be full, the Holy One
    Abides without. She soon shall have achieved
      Her perfect purity: yea, God the Lord
        Shall soon vouchsafe His Son to be her Son.
    [1849] [1849; 1882, 1886]


    Mother of the Fair Delight,
    Thou handmaid perfect in God's sight,
    Now sitting fourth beside the Three,
    Thyself a woman-Trinity, —
    Being a daughter born to God,
    Mother of Christ from stall to rood,
    And wife unto the Holy Ghost: —
    Oh when our need is uttermost,
    Think that to such as death may strike
    Thou once wert sister sisterlike!
    Thou headstone of humanity,
    Groundstone of the great Mystery,
    Fashioned like us, yet more than we!

      Mind'st thou not (when June's heavy breath
    Warmed the long days in Nazareth,)
    That eve thou didst go forth to give
    Thy flowers some drink that they might live
    One faint night more amid the sands?
    Far off the trees were as pale wands
    Against the fervid sky: the sea
    Sighed further off eternally
    As human sorrow sighs in sleep.
    Then suddenly the awe grew deep,
    As of a day to which all days
    Were footsteps in God's secret ways:
    Until a folding sense, like prayer,
    Which is, as God is, everywhere,
    Gathered about thee; and a voice
    Spake to thee without any noise,
    Being of the silence: — "Hail," it said,
    "Thou that art highly favourèd;
    The Lord is with thee here and now;
    Blessed among all women thou."

      Ah! knew'st thou of the end, when first
    That Babe was on thy bosom nurs'd? —
    Or when He tottered round thy knee
    Did thy great sorrow dawn on thee? —
    And through His boyhood, year by year
    Eating with Him the Passover,
    Didst thou discern confusedly
    That holier sacrament, when He,
    The bitter cup about to quaff,
    Should break the bread and eat thereof? —
    Or came not yet the knowledge, even
    Till on some day forecast in Heaven
    His feet passed through thy door to press
    Upon His Father's business? —
    Or still was God's high secret kept?

      Nay, but I think the whisper crept
    Like growth through childhood. Work and play,
    Things common to the course of day,
    Awed thee with meanings unfulfill'd;
    And all through girlhood, something still'd
    Thy senses like the birth of light,
    When thou hast trimmed thy lamp at night
    Or washed thy garments in the stream;
    To whose white bed had come the dream
    That He was thine and thou wast His
    Who feeds among the field-lilies.
    O solemn shadow of the end
    In that wise spirit long contain'd!
    O awful end! and those unsaid
    Long years when It was Finishèd!

      Mind'st thou not (when the twilight gone
    Left darkness in the house of John,)
    Between the naked window-bars
    That spacious vigil of the stars? —
    For thou, a watcher even as they,
    Wouldst rise from where throughout the day
    Thou wroughtest raiment for His poor;
    And, finding the fixed terms endure
    Of day and night which never brought
    Sounds of His coming chariot,
    Wouldst lift through cloud-waste unexplor'd
    Those eyes which said, "How long, O Lord?"
    Then that disciple whom He loved,
    Well heeding, haply would be moved
    To ask thy blessing in His name;
    And that one thought in both, the same
    Though silent, then would clasp ye round
    To weep together, — tears long bound,
    Sick tears of patience, dumb and slow.
    Yet, "Surely I come quickly," — so
    He said, from life and death gone home.
    Amen: even so, Lord Jesus, come!

      But oh! what human tongue can speak
    That day when Michael came to break
    From the tir'd spirit, like a veil,
    Its covenant with Gabriel
    Endured at length unto the end?
    What human thought can apprehend
    That mystery of motherhood
    When thy Beloved at length renew'd
    The sweet communion severed, —
    His left hand underneath thine head
    And His right hand embracing thee? —
    Lo! He was thine, and this is He!

      Soul, is it Faith, or Love, or Hope,
    That lets me see her standing up
    Where the light of the Throne is bright?
    Unto the left, unto the right,
    The cherubim, succinct, conjoint,
    Float inward to a golden point,
    And from between the seraphim
    The glory issues for a hymn.
    O Mary Mother, be not loth
    To listen, — thou whom the stars clothe,
    Who seëst and mayst not be seen!
    Hear us at last, O Mary Queen!
    Into our shadow bend thy face,
    Bowing thee from the secret place,
    O Mary Virgin, full of grace!
    [1847] [1870]


Excerpted from The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle by Cecil Y. Lang. Copyright © 1975 The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Blessed Damozel
My Sister's Sleep
Mary's Girlhood (For a Picture)
The Portrait
The Burden of Nineveh
The Staff and Scrip
Sister Helen
The Woodspurge
Even So
The Song of the Bower
The Stream's Secret
After the French Liberation of Italy
Three Translations from François Villon
The Ballad of Dead Ladies
To Death, of His Lady
His Mother's Service to Our Lady
The Bride's Prelude
The House of Life
Part I. Youth and Change
Part II. Change and Fate
Christina Georgina Rossetti
Goblin Market
Monna Innominata
Old and New Year Ditties
The Lowest Place
Bitter for Sweet
Song (When I am dead, my dearest)
Song (Oh roses for the flush of youth)
A Birthday
Amor Mundi
De Profundis
Ash Wednesday
Sleeping at Last
William Morris
The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems
The Defence of Guenevere
King Arthur's Tomb
Sir Galahad: A Christmas Mystery
The Chapel in Lyoness
Sir Peter Harpdon's End
Concerning Geffray Teste Noire
A Good Knight in Prison
Old Love
The Gilliflower of Gold
Shameful Death
The Eve of Crecy
The Judgment of God
The Little Tower
The Sailing of the Sword
The Wind
The Blue Closet
The Tune of Seven Towers
Golden Wings
The Haystack in the Floods
Two Red Roses across the Moon
Welland River
Riding Together
Father John's War-Song
Sir Giles' War-Song
Near Avalon
Praise of My Lady
Summer Dawn
In Prison
From The Earthly Paradise
The Argument
French Noel (Masters, in this Hall)
Thunder in the Garden
Love's Gleaning-tide
Spring's Bedfellow
A Garden by the Sea
For the Bed at Kelmscott
George Meredith
Love in the Valley
Modern Love
Phoebus with Admetus
The Lark Ascending
The Woods of Westermain
Earth and Man
Lucifer in Starlight
Algernon Charles Swinburne
The Triumph of Time
A Leave-taking
Hymn to Proserpine
The Garden of Proserpine
Prelude [to Songs before Sunrise]
Ave atque Vale
Sonnet, with a Copy of “Mademoiselle de Maupin”
A Forsaken Garden
A Vision of Spring in Winter
A Ballad of Dreamland
A Ballad of François Villon, Prince of All Ballad-makers
Two Translations from François Villon
The Ballad of Villon and Fat Madge
The Complaint of the Fair Armouress
The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell
Sonnet for a Picture (That nose is out of drawing)
Poeta Loquitur
A Ballad of Sark
The Tyneside Widow
To a Seamew
The Lake of Gaube
Atalanta in Calydon
The Leper
Bibliographical Note
Notes on the Poems
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Christina Georgina Rossetti
William Morris
George Meredith
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Notes on the Illustrations
Plates 1–16
Index of Poems

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