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.
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The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle
By Cecil Y. Lang
The University of Chicago PressCopyright © 1975 The University of Chicago
All rights reserved.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
THE BLESSED DAMOZEL
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.)
 [1850; 1870]
MY SISTER'S SLEEP
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.
 [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; 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!
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.
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Table of ContentsCONTENTS
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Blessed Damozel
My Sister's Sleep
Mary's Girlhood (For a Picture)
The Burden of Nineveh
The Staff and Scrip
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
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)
Sleeping at Last
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
The Gilliflower of Gold
The Eve of Crecy
The Judgment of God
The Little Tower
The Sailing of the Sword
The Blue Closet
The Tune of Seven Towers
The Haystack in the Floods
Two Red Roses across the Moon
Father John's War-Song
Sir Giles' War-Song
Praise of My Lady
From The Earthly Paradise
French Noel (Masters, in this Hall)
Thunder in the Garden
A Garden by the Sea
For the Bed at Kelmscott
Love in the Valley
Phoebus with Admetus
The Lark Ascending
The Woods of Westermain
Earth and Man
Lucifer in Starlight
Algernon Charles Swinburne
The Triumph of Time
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)
A Ballad of Sark
The Tyneside Widow
To a Seamew
The Lake of Gaube
Atalanta in Calydon
Notes on the Poems
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Christina Georgina Rossetti
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Notes on the Illustrations
Index of Poems