The Blessed Damozel by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The Blessed Damozel is a poem and a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the poem first published in 1850 and the painting painted between 1875–78. It tells the sad story of a lover mourning the death of his loved one.

It begins,
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.
He goes on to describe her and writes that it only feels like a day since she died ("Herseem’d she scarce had been a day / One of God’s choristers") yet in fact she has been gone ten years. Still, our narrator imagines she is with him now, feeling as though she is leaning over him with her hair falling about him, but he is mistaken: it is "the autumn-fall of leaves". She is in fact in heaven, and he imagines her there alone and surrounded by lovers who have been reunited:
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.
She stares down to earth,
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 sand 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.
There she imagines herself reunited with the narrator,
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...
 And the poem continues with her imaginings until it breaks off, and the Blessed Damozel is left, and she "laid her face between her hands, / And wept. (I heard her tears.)"

It is a very moving poem, said to be at least in part inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. It is clearly a poem on love and loss, as well as the prospect and hope of the future of the unmarried couple in heaven. To finish, here's the painting and below it, the poem in full (courtesy of Bartleby).


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.

Herseem’d she scarce had been a day
  One of God’s choristers;
The wonder was not yet quiet 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 sand 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 lie i’ the shadow of
  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-ranged 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, forever now
  Together, I and he.”

She gazed 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.)

And that was my second title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week: Agamemnon by Seneca the Younger.

Comments

  1. the pre-raphaelites produced some extraordinary work; but a lot of it was distorted by over-indulgence in laudanum, from what i've read... and sometimes that was an improvement... i'm about half - way through "Aurora Leigh", where i got stuck... i must get back to it... pretty soon... "Goblin Market" is better, i think...

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    Replies
    1. I've read Aurora Leigh but I can hardly remember it... And I LOVE Goblin Market, that was great :)

      Changing the subject - we've fixed the leak! We used Fernox F4 for central heating - I was actually surprised it worked, didn't have much hope for it. If you're interested, here's a link to the product on Screwfix. So happy about it! :D

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