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Full text of "The blessed damozel"

THE 

BLESSED 

DAMOZEL 

REPRINTED 
FROM 
THE GERM 



DANTE 

GABRIEL 

ROSSETTI 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/blesseddannozelOOrossuoft 



THE BLESSED DAMOZEL 



f 



jflFRcprintcd from The Germ 



jtfFTHE BLESSED DAMOZEL BY 
DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTIjtfF 




Portland Maine 

Thomas B Moshcr 

Mdccccv 



PREFACE 



LONE among the 
higher artists of his 
age, Mr» Rossetti has 
felt and given the 
mere physical charm 
of Christianity, with 
no admixture of doc^ 
trine or of doubt* 
Here as in other things he belongs, if to any 
school at all, to that of the great Venetians* 
He takes the matter in hand with the thorough 
comprehension of Tintoretto or Veronese, with 
their thorough subjection of creed and history 
to the primary purpose of art and proper bear^ 
ing of a picture* He works after the manner 




111 



of Titian painting his Assumption with an 
equal hand whether the girl exalted into god^ 
dess be Mary or Ariadne: but his instinct is 
too masterly for any confusion or discord of 
colours; and hence comes the spiritual charm 
and satisfaction of his sacred art. In this class 
of his poems the first place and the fairest palm 
belong to the ^Blessed Damozel/ This par^ 
adisal poem, * sweeter than honey or the honeys 
comb/ has found a somewhat further echo than 
any of its early fellows, and is perhaps known 
where little else is known of its author's* The 
sweet intense impression of it must rest for life 
upon all spirits that ever once received it into 
their depths, and hold it yet as a thing too dear 
and fair for praise or price* Itself the flower of 
a splendid youth, it has the special charm for 
youth of fresh first work and opening love; 
^the dew of its birth is of the womb of the 
morning;' it has the odour and colour of 



IV 



cloudless air, the splendour of an hour without 
spot» The divine admixtures of earth which 
humanize its heavenly passion have the flavour 
and bloom upon them of a maiden beauty, the 
fine force of a pure first sunrise. No poem 
shows more plainly the strength and wealth of 
the worfcman^s lavish yet studious hand* One 
sample in witness of this wealth, and in cvu 
dence of the power of choice and persistent 
search after perfection which enhance its price, 
may be cited; though no petal should be 
plucked out of this mystic rose for proof of its 
fragrance* The two final lines of the stanza 
describing the secret shrine of God have been 
reformed ; and the form first given to the world 
is too fair to be wholly forgotten : — 

' Whose lamps tremble continuafly 
With prayer sent up to God ; 

And where each need, revealed, expects 
Its patient period/ 



Wonderful though the beauty may be of the 
new imagination, that the spirits standing there 
at length will see their *oId prayers, granted, 
melt each like a little cloud/ there is so sweet 
a force in the cancefled phrase that some stu^ 
dents might grudge the loss, and feel that, 
though a diamond may have supplanted it, a 
ruby has been plucked out of the golden ring* 
Nevertheless, the complete circlet shines now 
with a more solid and flawless excellence of jewels 
and of setting* The sweetness and pathos and 
gracious radiance of the poem have been praised 
by those who have not known or noted all the 
noble care spent on it in rejection and rearrange*' 
ment of whatever was crude or lax in the first 
cast; but the breadth and sublimity which 
ennoble its brightness and beauty of fancies are 
yet worthier of note than these* What higher 
imagination can be found in modem verse than 
this? 



VI 



^Frorn the fixed place of Heaven she saw 

Time^ like a pulse^ shake fierce 
Through all the worlds/ 

This grandeur of scale and sweep of spirit 
give greatness of style to poetry, as well as 
sweetness and brightness* These qualities, 
together with the charm of fluent force and 
facile power, are apparent in all Mr* Rossetti^s 
work; but its height of pitch and width of scope 
give them weight and price beyond their own/^^ 

.*♦ See Essays and Studies* By Algernon 
C3iarles Swinburne. Crown 8vo* London, 
J 875* Pp* 82^84. The essay on Rossetti was 
first printed in The Fortnightly Review for 
May, 1870. 



Vll 




UCH was the splendid 
tribute rendered by one 
great poet to another at 
a period when contemn 
porary criticism was 
singularly barren of 
results* It came when 
mostneededbyRossetti, 
and to this day remains unapproached by any 
later appraiser of literary values* The concur^ 
rent approval expressed by William Morris 
though less fervid in phrase is no less satisfying 
in its absolute sincerity* /. 

/♦ '^ A poem in which wild longing, and the 
shame of life, and despair of separation, and the 
worship of love, are wrought into a palpable 
dream, in which the heaven that exists as if for 
the sake of the beloved is as real as the earthly 
things about the lover, while these are scarcely 
less strange or less pervaded with a sense of his 



vm 



For Mr* William Sharp^ /♦ who origfinally 
suggested the plan here adopted of printing entire 
the textual variants of The Blessed DamoztU 
it doubtless suffices that Mr* Swinburne has 
recently and still more generafly advocated the 
same idea — has indeed made it a labour of love 
binding upon any future editor who would do 
honour to his text* **• 

passion, than the things his imagination has 
made/' (The Academy, May 14, J870.) 

*% Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Record and a 
Study* By William Sharp^ 8vo» London, 
I882» Pp* 335^340* By textual variants is 
meant verbal alterations only* To have given 
Rossetti's changes in punctuation, or similar 
minutiae, would not have contributed in the 
remotest degree to our knowledge or enjoyment 
of the poem* 

*•* ^^My iflustrious friend Mr* Swinburne 
wrote to me some while ago that a better ser^ 



The origin of the poem is happily placed 
beyond conjecture* To Mr* Hall Caine we 
owe the publication of a verbal statement made 
to him by Rossetti in the autumn of 1 88 J upon 
the occasion of the latter reciting Poe^s Ulalume 
and The Raven : 

** I remember that^ touching the last^mentioned 
vice to the memory of my brother as a poet 
could hardly be rendered than to print the 
variants in the successive published forms of 
his several poems; for (as he said), while the 
changes introduced were almost invariably for 
the better, the older readings were often, from 
the point of view which had prompted them, so 
felicitous that few persons except Dante Rossetti 
(with his insatiable passion for the best) would 
have had the heart to sacrifice them/^ (W^ M* 
Rossetti: Introduction to the Blessed Damozel 
with Decorations by W» B* MacdougalL 4to. 
London, 1898* R xivO 



of these poems, he remarked that out of his love 
for it while still a boy his own Blessed Damozel 
originated* ^I saw^ he said, ^that Poe had 
done the utmost it was possible to do with the 
grief of the lover on earth, and so I determined 
to reverse the conditions, and give utterance to 
the yearning of the loved in heaven/ ^' •*• 

Bearing in mind that The Raven was first 
published in the New York Evening Mirror for 
January 29th 1845, the following statement by 
Mr* W. M* Rossetti may be taken as conclusive : 

^^He wrote The Blessed Damozel early in 
1847 (if not indeed in 1846), ♦ ♦ ♦ 'in a kind of 
Gothic manner,^ and included it with other 
poems under the general title Songs of the Art 
Catholic* Of the first form of the composition, 
that which appeared in the family magazine 

/♦ Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti* 
By T* HaU Caine* 8vo* London, 1882. 
R284. 



towards J 847^ no trace remains^ so far as my 
knowledge extends. /. The second form is that 
which was printed in The Germ. . • ♦ Before 
publishing the poem in The Germ^ my brother 
added four stanzas to it. ... I think it not 
unlikely that they may have been stanzas 6, 9, 
13 and either H or 17.'' 

This^ in brief, is the history of The Blessed 
Damozel as a poem. From an artistic stand*' 
point the subject did not immediately attract 
Rossetti's attention. His first picture in oils was 
undertaken at the suggestion of Mr. William 
Graham, (1873^1877). It was painted life size 
with predella, and is the one more generally 
known. A second painting, (1879), for Mr. 
F. R. Leyland is sin^liar but not identical and 
does not seem to have been reproduced. Four 
crayon portraits of the principal figure exist, all 
of them studies from the some model. The 

/. Nor can the original manuscript be traced. 



Xll 



one here given as frontispiece is from the picture 
executed in J 874 for Lord Mount^TempIe^ but 
incorrectly named Sancta Lilias* 

Next to that youthful head ^^ beloved of 
Leonardo ** ** which Love chooses for its own/' 
may we not place this later and even lovelier 
presentment of Alexa Wildings whose glorious 
beauty thus transfigured became in Rossetti's 
solemn trance and vision the Blessed Damozel 
we know and worship evermore? 

**Lo! it is done^ Above the enthroning throat 
The mouth's mould testifies of voice and kiss, 
The shadowed eyes remember and foresee. 
Her face is made her shrine. Let all men note 
That in all years (O Love, thy gift is this 1) 
They that would look on her must come to me.'' 



ziii 



THE BLESSED DAMOZEL 



jtfFTHE BLESSED DAMOZEL BY 
DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTIjtfF 



A Reprint of the original text taken 
from The Germ, mdccci, including afl 
variants from The Oxford and Cam^ 
bridge Magazine, mdccclvi; Poems, 
mdccclxx, and the GDlIected Works, 
mdccclxxxvi* 




HE BLESSED 

DAMOZEL 

LEANED OUT 

From the gold bar 

of Heaven : 

Her blue grave eyes 

were deeper much 

Than a deep water^ 

She had three lilies in her hand, [even^ 

And the stars in her hair were seven* 



1856: 

Her eyes knew more of rest and shade 

Than waters stillM at even ; 

1870: J886: 

Her eyes were deeper than the depth 

Of waters stilled at even ; 



n 



jd^Her robe^ ungirt from clasp to hem^ 

No wrought flowers did adorn, 

But a white rose of Mary^s gift 

On the neck meetly worn ; 

And her hair, lying down her back, 

Was yeflow like ripe conu 



1856: 1870: 1886: 

For service meetly worn ; 

1870: 1886: 

Her hair that lay along her back 



m 

j0FHerseemed she scarce had been a day- 
One of God^s choristers; 
The wonder was not yet quite gone 
From that still look of her^s ; 
Albeit to them she left^ her day 
Had counted as ten years* 



"^Wf^W 



IV 




O ONE it is ten 
years of years : 
♦ ♦ ♦ Yet now, 
here in this place. 
Surely she leaned o'er 
me, — her hair 
Fell all about my 
lace* * ♦ ♦ 

Nothing: the Autumn^fall of leaves* 

The whole year sets apace*) 



1856: 1870: 1886: 

♦ ♦ ♦ Yet now, and in this place, 




T WAS the terrace 
of God^s house 
That she was 
standing on, — 
By God built over 
the sheer depth 
In which Space is 
begun ; 

So high, that looking downward thence, 

She could scarce see the sun« 



J856: 1870: 1886: 
It was the rampart of God^s house 
The which is Space begun ; 
She scarce could see the sun* 



VI 

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



1856: 1870: 1886: 

It lies in Heaven, across the flood 

1870: 1886: 

With flame and darkness ridge 



8 



vn 

jlJFBut in those tracts, with her, it was 

The peace of utter light 

And silence^ For no breeze may stir 

Along the steady flight 

Of seraphim ; no echo there, 

Beyond all depth or height. 



This stanza is not in the later editions. 



vm 

jSpFHcard hardly, some of her new friends, 

Playing at holy games, 

Spake, gentle^mouthed, among themselves, 

Their virginal chaste names ; 

And the souls, mounting up to God, 

Went by her like thin flames* 



1856: 

She scarcely heard her sweet new friends : 

Softly they spake among themselves 

1870: 

Amid their loving games 

Spake evermore among themselves 

1886: 

Around her, lovers, newly met 

'Mid deathless love's acclaims. 

Spoke evermore among themselves 

Their heart<^remembered names ; 



10 



IX 

jflFAnd still she bowed herself, and stooped 

Into the vast waste calm ; ^ 

Till her faosom^s pressure must have made 

The bar she leaned on warm, 

And the lilies lay as if asleep 

Along her bended arm. 



1856: 

And still she boVd above the vast 

Waste sea of worlds that swarm ; 

1856: J870: 1886: . 

Until her bosom must have made 

1870: J886: 

Out of the circling charm ; 



U 



jSf From the fixt lull of heaven^ she saw 

Time, like a pulse, shake fierce 

Through all the worlds* Her ga^e still strove, 

In that steep gulph, to pierce 

The swarm : and then she spake, as when 

The stars sang in their spheres* 



1856: 1870: 1886: 

From the fix^d place of Heaven, she saw 

Within the gulf to pierce 

Its path ; and now she spoke, as when 

J856: 

The stars sung in their spheres* 



i2 



[X 

jiS^Thc sun was gone now* The curPd moon 

Was like a little feather 

Fluttering far down the guE And now 

She spoke through the still weather* 

Her voice was like the voice the stars 

Had when they sung together*] 



Between stanzas X and XI this stanza was 
introduced in the 1856 text^ and retained^ with 
slight changes in punctuation^ in the J 870 and 
1886 versions* 



1870: 1886: 

Had when they sang together* 



J3 



[XI 

j|jJF(Ah sweet I 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?)] 



In 1870 this stanza was included as XI. It 
first appeared in the 1856 text as XVI, with 
these variations: 

Ah sweet ! Just now, in that bird song, 
Was she not stepping to my side 
Down all the trembling stair? 



14 



u 



XI 



WISH that he were 

come to me^ 

For he will come/^ 

she said^ 

** Have I not prayed 

in solemn heaven? 

On earth, has he not 

prayed ? 

Are not two prayers a perfect strength ? 

And shall I feel afraid ? 



i 


1 



J856: 1870: 1886: 

Have I not pray'd in Heaven ? — on earth. 

Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd ? 



15 



xn 

jtfF^^Whcn round his head the aureole clings, 

And he is clothed in white, 

m take his hand, and go with him 

To the deep wells of light, 

And we will step down as to a stream 

And bathe there in God^s sight 



1870: 

We will step down as to a stream, 

1886: 

As unto a stream we will step down. 



16 



Xffl 

'^^We two will stand beside that shrine^ 
Occult^ withheld^ untrod, 
Whose lamps tremble continuafly 
With prayer sent up to God ; 
And where each need, revealed, expects 
Its patient period* 



1856: 

With prayers sent up to God ; 

1856: 1870: J886: 

Whose lamps are stirrM continuafly 

And see our old prayers, granted, melt 

Each like a little cloud* 



17 



XIV 

'^^We two will lie i^ the shadow of 
That living mystic tree 
Within whose secret growth the Dove 
Sometimes is felt to be. 
While every leaf that His plumes touch 
Saith His name audibly* 



J856: 1870: 1886: 
Is sometimes felt to be^ 



18 



XV 

JjpF'^And I myself will teach to him — 
I myself^ lying so, — 
The songs I sing here ; which his mouth 
Shall pause in, hushed and slow. 
Finding some knowledge at each pause 
And some new thing to know/* 



J856: 1870: 1886: 

The songs I sing here ; which his voice 
And find some knowledge at each pause. 
Or some new thing to know* 



19 



XVI 




Alas for lonely Heaven ! 
For life wrung out alone ! 



LAS! to her wise 

simple mind 

These things were all 

but known 

Before : they trembled 

on her sense^ — 

Her voice had caught 

their tone» 

Alas 



In the texts of 1870 and 1886, for these two 
parenthetical stanzas, XVI and XVH, a single 
one was substituted : 



20 



xvn 

jJpF Alas^ and though the end were reached ? ♦ ♦ . 

Was thy part understcxxi 

Or borne in trust ? And for her sake 

Shall this too be found good ? — 

May the close lips that knew not prayer 

Praise ever, though they would ?) 



1870: 1886: 

(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 ?) 



2J 



xvm 




Arc five sweet symphonies : ■ 
Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen, 
Margaret and Rosalys* 



E TWO/^ she 

said, ^* will seek the 
groves 

Where the lady 
Mary is. 
With her five 
handmaidens, 
whose names 



22 



XIX 

jSf**Qrdc^wizc sit thcy^ with bound locks 

And bosoms covered ; 

Into the fine cloth, white like flame, 

Weaving the golden thread, 

To fashion the birth^robes for them 

Who are just bom, being dead* 

1856: J870: J886: 
And foreheads garlanded ; 



23 



XX 

Jj/^**Hc shall fear haply^ and be dumb* 
Then I will 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 speaks 



24 



XXI 

j0F^^HerseIf shall bring us^ hand in hand^ 

To Him round whom all souls 

Kneel — the unnumberM solemn heads 

Bowed with their aureoles : 

And Angels^ meeting us, shall sing 

To their citherns and citoles. 



1856: 

Kneel^ the unnumbered ransomM heads 

1870: 1886: 

Kneelt the clear^ranged unnumbered heads 



25 



xxn 

jtfF^^Thcre will I ask of Christ the Lord 

Thus much for him and mc : — 

To have more blessing than on earth 

In nowise ; but to be 

As then we were^ — being as then 

At peace* Yea, verily* 



1856: 1870: J886: 

Only to live as once on e4rth 

1856: 

At peace — only to be 

1870: 1886: 

With Love, — only to be, 

1856: 1870: 1886: 

As then awhile, for ever now 

Together, I and he* 



26 



xxm 

jflF'^Yca^ verily; when he is come 

We will do thus and thus : 

Till this my vigil seem quite strange 

And almost fabulous ; 

We two will live at once, one life ; 

And peace shall be with us/^ 



This stanza was cancelled in the later texts^ 



27 



XXIV 

HE gazed^ and listened^ 

and then said, 

Less sad of speech than 

mild; 

^^AII this is when he 

comes/^ She ceased : 

The light thrilled past 

her, filled 

With Angels, in strong level lapse* 

Her eyes prayed, and she smiled. 




1870: J886: 

The light thrilled towards her, fill'd 

With angels in strong level flight. 



28 



XXV 

jS^il saw her smiIcO But soon their flight 

Was vague ^mid the poised spheres. 

And then she cast her arms along 

The golden barriers, 

And kid her face between her hands. 

And wept. (I heard her tears.) 



J870: 1886: 

(I saw her smile.) But soon their path 

J856: 1870: J886: 

Was vague in distant spheres ; 

1856: 

And then she laid her arms along 



29 



NOTES 




TANZA viii gave 
Rossctti much trouble* 
In one or more reis^ 
sues of the mdccclxx 
volume of Poems^ lines 
a and iv have addi-^ 
tional variants as fol" 
lows: 

In joy no sorrow claims^ 
Their rapturous new names ; 
A microscopic examination of these intermediate 
editions before the Coflected Works were f inafly 
put forth by Mr. W. M. Rossetti (mdccclxxxvi) 
might reveal still further minor changes. It 
is evident that improvement was impossible. 
The poem had already crystallized into perfect 
speech. Beyond this not even Rossetti could go. 



31 



n 

** The final verse was to the last a thorn of 
indecision to the author, he never quite agreeing 
as to whether **she cast her arms along the 
golden barriers/^ or ** she laid her arms, etc*/^ 
was the better, ultimately choosing, ere the 
proofs were returned, the earlier reading* Also 
in this verse he thought of altering in the 1 88 1 
edition the last four words, ** I heard her tears ^^ 
to ** I felt her tears,^^ but refrained on the ground 
that where there might be an apparent realistic 
gain there was spiritual loss/' — William Sharp* 



32 



Here ends The Blessed Damozel a faith" 
ful reprint of the poem by Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti as it originally appeared in The 
Germ for February mdcccl^ together with 
the textual variants taken from The Ox-^ 
ford and Cambridge Magazine mdccclvi, the 
Poems of mdccclxx^ and the final version 
in the Coflected Works of mdccclxxxvi* 



Of this third edition Four hundred 
and fifty copies have been printed on 
Kelmscott hand^made paper^ and the 
type distributed* 

Published by Thomas B» Mosher 

at xlv Exchange Street^ 

Portland^ Maine. 

Mdccccv* 



Rare 

Book. 

Room 



3 



^^'"^