Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Biography of Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Rossetti was born, the son of an Italian patriot and political refugee and an English mother, in England. He was raised in an environment of cultural and political activity that, it has been suggested, was of more import to his learning than his formal education. This latter was constituted by a general education at King's College from 1836 to 1841 and, following drawing lessons at a school in central London at the age of fourteen, some time as a student at the Royal Academy from 1845 onwards. Here he studied painting with William Hollman Hunt and John Everett Millais who, in 1848, would set up the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with Rossetti, Rossetti's younger brother and three other students.
The school's aspirations, in this its first incarnation, was to paint true to nature: a task pursued by way of minute attention to detail and the practice of painting out of doors. Rossetti's principal contribution to the Brotherhood was his insistence on linking poetry and painting, no doubt inspired in part by his earlier and avaricious readings of Keats, Shakespeare, Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, Byron, Edgar Allan Poe and, from 1847 onwards, the works of William Blake.
'The Germ' lasted however for only four issues, all published in 1850. In 1854 Rossetti met and gained an ally in the art critic John Ruskin and, two years later, meetings with Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris set a second phase of the Brotherhood into movement.
In 1860 Rossetti married Elizabeth Siddal, also a writer and a painter, whom he had met ten years earlier in 1850. But, by this time she was an invalid and, after giving birth to a stillborn child, she died just two years later of a laudanum overdose. Rossetti had her interned with the only extent and complete manuscript of his poems, only to have her exhumed seven years later in order to retrieve his work. By this time he had moved to Chelsea where he was a joint tenant with Swinbourne and Meredith. In 1871 he moved again, this time to Kelmscott near Oxford, with William Morris and his wife Jane, the other great love of Rossetti's life whom he painted avidly.
Rossetti collapsed in 1872 after which he never really regained his health. The last decade of his life was spent mostly in a state of semi-invalid hermitry.
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti Poems
Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf How the heart feels a languid grief Laid on it for a covering, And how sleep seems a goodly thing
A Little While
A little while a little love The hour yet bears for thee and me Who have not drawn the veil to see If still our heaven be lit above.
The mother will not turn, who thinks she hears Her nursling's speech first grow articulate; But breathless with averted eyes elate She sits, with open lips and open ears,
Young Love lies sleeping In May-time of the year, Among the lilies, Lapped in the tender light:
Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass, -- The finger-points look through like rosy blooms: Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms 'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
I have been here before, But when or how I cannot tell: I know the grass beyond the door, The sweet keen smell,
The Gloom That Breathes Upon Me With The...
The gloom that breathes upon me with these airs Is like the drops which stike the traveller's brow Who knows not, darkling, if they bring him now Fresh storm, or be old rain the covert bears.
Under the arch of Life, where love and death, Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck awe, I drew it in as simply as my breath.
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;
(For one of his own pictures) Her lute hangs shadowed in the apple-tree, While flashing fingers weave the sweet-strung spell
Where sunless rivers weep Their waves into the deep She sleeps a charmed sleep: Awake her not.
The wind flapped loose, the wind was still, Shaken out dead from tree and hill: I had walk’d on at the wind’s will,— I sat now, for the wind was still.
Thin are the night-skirts left behind By daybreak hours that onward creep, And thin, alas! the shred of sleep That wavers with the spirit's wind:
Master of the murmuring courts Where the shapes of sleep convene!-- Lo! my spirit here exhorts All the powers of thy demesne
Not in thy body is thy life at all
But in this lady's lips and hands and eyes;
Through these she yields thee life that vivifies
What else were sorrow's servant and death's thrall.
Look on thyself without her, and recall
The waste remembrance and forlorn surmise
That liv'd but in a dead-drawn breath of sighs
O'er vanish'd hours and hours eventual.