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Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "absurd," antiquarian, and "modern-antique" medievalism(s): Girlhood of Mary Virgin, The Bride's Prelude, and "Stratton Water".

"I wish ... that you would not attempt to defend my mediaevalisms, which were absurd, but rather say that there was enough good in the works to give assurance that these were merely superficial. My picture should be described as the 'Girlhood' & by no means 'Education.'" (1) So wrote Dante Gabriel Rossetti to his brother in September 1851 after reading a draft of "Pre-Raphaelitism," the article defending the early paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848-53) that William Michael would revise and then publish in the Spectator on October 4 of that year. (2) Coming as they do less than a year after the exhibition of Ecce Ancilla Domini! (1850-51) (the only other picture besides Girlhood of Mary Virgin [1849-50] to which the word "works" can refer), Rossetti's remarks raise questions that are both sharply focused and far-reaching as regards the relationship between Pre-Raphaelitism and medievalism. What precisely are the "mediaevalisms" in Girlhood of Mary Viran and Ecce Ancilla Domini! and why, in retrospect, did Rossetti regard them as "absurd"? How do his remarks reflect a shift in his thinking about "mediaevalisms" and their artistic uses and, if so, when and why did this shift occur and where and how does it fit into the narrative of Pre-Raphaelite medievalism in which Rossetti provides the link between the first and second generations of Pre-Raphaelites? What, if any, was the relationship between Rossetti's medieval revivalism (and, more generally, his deferential attitude to the Middle Ages) and the truculent progressivism--the iconoclastic "determin[ation] to respect no authority that stood in the way of fresh research in art"--that William Holman Hunt regarded as the driving force of Pre-Raphaelitism (1: 111)? Because these questions are far-reaching as well as sharply focused, they benefit from being briefly placed in the historical and artistic context in which the PRB coalesced in September 1848 and dissolved in November 1853.


London in the late eighteen forties and early eighteen fifties was increasingly stocked with manifestations of both progressivism and revivalism. On the one hand, was what Walter Benjamin calls the "economically and technologically based" "constellation of phantasmagorias" that were in the process of transforming mid-nineteenth century cities like London into concretions of modernity: the arcade, the panorama, the plate-glass shop window, and, of course, world exhibitions such as the one in the Crystal Palace in 1851. (3) On the other hand, were the architectural and religious manifestations of an incipiently anti-modern desire to recover and reinstate aspects of the past: the decorated altars and surpliced choirs of the High Church movement, such Gothic-revival churches as A.W.N. Pugin's St. Augustine, Ramsgate (1844-51) and William Butterworth's All Saints', Margaret Street, London (1850-59) and, of course, Sir Charles Barry's new Houses of Parliament (1840-60). In many places and instances, these competing forms and their underlying principles existed parasitically within and upon one another: Pugin had a medieval court beneath the glass and iron dome of the Crystal Palace to display his wares and used concealed iron bars to support the walls of his neo-Gothic buildings.4 Between 1845 and 1855, visitors to the Colosseum (1824-32), a massive pleasure dome designed to display a panorama of London but decorated so as to reflect "'antiquity,'" could ascend to a viewing platform in a steam-powered elevator decked out in the "Tudor style." (5) The "mediaevalisms" of Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini! are painted on a white primer in emulation of early Italian artists, but in oils squeezed from lead tubes and on canvas sealed with "commercially prepared priming."6 In this regard, it is notable that in "Pre-Raphaelitism," William Michael does not insist strongly that Pre-Raphaelitism is "distinct" from "mediaevalism of thought" but focuses instead on the artistic "practice," of the Pre-Raphaelites" in "so far as... [it] depends on education, skill of hand, and acquaintance with the principles of design or perspective" (Spectator, p. 956). Apparently medieval wine was acceptable to him, provided that it was decanted into nineteenth-century bottles.

More often than not, progressivists attempted to separate themselves from revivalists as fervently as revivalists attempted to separate themselves from modernity. With its pairs of diametrically opposed illustrations of medieval (Gothic) and modern (neoclassical) buildings and their surroundings and functions, Pugin's Contrasts (1836, 1841) is a paradigmatic example of an increasing number of attempts to depict the medieval pastas a site of everything good and the Victorian present as a site of everything bad. So, too, in an only marginally less schematic way, is Thomas Carlyle's Past and Present (1843). Ford Madox Brown's Wycliffe Reading His Translation of the New Testament to His Protector, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, in the Presence of Chaucer and Gower (1847-48) and Work (1852-65) are not greatly dissimilar in size or proportions (119.5 x 153.5 vs 137 x 197.3 cm) and both are painted in oil on canvas, but in spirit and presentation as well as subject-matter they are utterly different: Wycliffe is medieval, pietistic, aristocratic, and tranquil while Work is modern, secular, busy, and partly satirical. The furniture, the architecture, and the frame of Wycliffe are pointed, Gothic, Puginesque; the frame of Work is curved, its setting urban, its central characters menial, and its peripheral middle-class and intellectual characters (namely, Carlyle and F.D. Maurice) subjected to varying degrees of contempt. In other words, Wycliffe is revivalist and Work is progressivist, and the two paintings, although separated by only a few years, reflect not only different phases of Brown's career as an artist, but also widely divergent attitudes to the content and function of art.

To the determinedly iconoclastic Hunt, who maintained to the last that the Pre-Raphaelites sought both to "avoid revived quattro- or cinque-centism" and to "abjure alliance with.., moribund neoclassicism" in their "allegiance to Nature for ... inspiration" (2:378), (7) the document that best reflected the principles of the group, albeit only temporarily, was the "list of Immortals" that Rossetti "wrote out" in the summer of 1848 to reflect, in Hunt's words, the Pre-Raphaelites' "absence of faith in immortality, save in the perennial influence exercised by great thinkers and workers" (1:111). Yet the only figure allotted four stars on the list is Jesus Christ, the only authors allotted three stars are Shakespeare and "The Author of Job," and among its inclusions are Dante, Fra Angelico, and "Early Gothic Architects," as well as Bacon, Newton, Keats, Byron, and P. B. Shelley. Despite Hunt's statement that at the time the list was compiled the Pre-Raphaelites "had not yet balanced [their] belief in Voltaire, Gibbon, Byron, and Shelley" (1:110-111), the list displays a remarkable "balance"--or, perhaps better, tension--between the religious and the secular--and, indeed, between the revivalist and the progressive. Moreover, Hunt follows the "list of Immortals" with the observation that "not many weeks after the signing of th[e] document" he was at work on A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids (1849-50) and by conceding that "our non-belief in the immortality of the soul ... was not long retained" (1:112). It would appear that in May 1849, when Hunt designed A Converted British Family (and Millais began The Disentombment of Queen Matilda [1849]), Rossetti's decidedly religious "Old and New Art" sonnets of 1848-49 were a more accurate reflection of Pre-Raphaelite principles than the "list of Immortals," which, in any case, was already in existence by August 30, 1848 (see C, 1:71) and, therefore, predated the formal inception of the PRB in the following month. (8)

Probably because the missionaries in A Converted British Family are wearing ecclesiastical garments that are in keeping with the High Church revival of early Christian vestments but were not in existence in the period in which the painting is set (first-century Britain), it was faulted when it was exhibited in 1850 for "disregard to historical evidence." (9) As Hunt well knew (for he attempted to defend them publicly some three decades later) the swords of the two principal male characters in his first-exhibited Shakespearean subject, Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus (1850-51), are also anachronistic, as, in fact, are aspects of the clothes in the painting. As Judith Bronkhurst observes, the presence of "swords of seventeenth-century design" in the painting is indicative of Hunt's "willingness ... to sacrifice antiquarian accuracy for the sake of decorative effect" (l:146, 2:33). Nevertheless, like Charles Collins' Convent Thoughts (1850-51), Millais' The Woodsman's Daughter (1850-51) and The Return of the Dove to the Ark (1851), Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus was attacked in the Times in May 1851 for its "antiquated style and an affected simplicity in Painting, which is to genuine art what the mediaeval ballads and designs in Punch are to Chaucer and Giotto" (qtd. in Hunt 1:178), a charge that adds a defensive dimension to the accusations of gross anachronism and the bellicose hostility to revivalism that, as will now be seen, permeate his comments on Rossetti's Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini! in Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Ironically, the fact that William Michael's "Pre-Raphaelitism" was revised in the wake of his brother's objections means that Hunt's detailed critiques of Rossetti's two paintings are of much greater help in determining the precise nature of the "mediaevalisms" that he soon came to regard as "absurd."


Hunt's critiques of Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini! are part of a concerted attempt in Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to replace the notion that "Pre-Raphaelitisra ... meant.., submission to mediaevalism" with his own conviction that "it was not antiquarianism or quattrocentrism in any sense" but, rather, "the frank worship of Nature, kept in check by selection and directed by the spirit of imaginative purpose" (2:343,357; Hunt's emphasis). Apparently irked and antagonized as much by the perception that Rossetti was the seminal member and de facto leader of the PRB (10) as by the association of Pre-Raphaelitism with "mediaevalism," Hunt dismissively criticizes Rossetti's two paintings as "revivalist" rather than "reformist" and "Early Christian" rather than Pre-Raphaelite, on the grounds that, instead of displaying "the sign of enjoyment from Nature direct," they are marked by a "quaintness derived from the works of the past" (2:286, 1:189; and see 1:38, 220). (11) Characterizing the species of antiquarianism whose goal is "the presentation of ancient story in a strictly historical mould" through the use of "correct costumes and accessories in historical pictures" as "modern" and of "great value," Hunt firmly rejects "antiquarianism as to manner of design and painting" as "quite foreign to ... the mode" of Millais and himself--indeed, "quite foreign" to British Art since it was an import from the German Nazarenes and other Continental sources (12) by way of the "quaint mediaevalism" of Brown (1:120, 104). (13) "The design of ... 'Girlhood of the Virgin' was of Overbeckian [that is, Nazarene] (14) revivalist character.., and his 'Annunciation' [Ecce Ancilla Domini!] still reflected Brown's 'Early Christian' phrase," Hunt observes at one point (2:351), and at another: the faulty perspective evident in the preliminary designs of Girlhood of Mary Virgen and to some extent in its final state "would ... have distressed the spirit of Paolo Ucello" (1:83). (15) Moreover, both "the aureoled dove representing the Holy Ghost, and the seven cypresses [actually, a seven-thorned briar] typifying the 'seven sorrowful mysteries' are.., of arbitrary authority"--which is to say, not authorized by scripture, (16) (Since the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is authorized by John 1.32, what must have offended Hunt, presumably because it smacks of Catholicism, is its gilt aureole.)

Hunt's efforts to denigrate Rossetti and his two paintings by "prov[ing] ... that what ... [he] did was a divergence from the aim of Pre-Raphaelitism" (2:352) also include remembered (and perhaps partly imagined) diatribes to the same end by Millais and even Millais' father, who apparently regarded Ecce Ancilla Domini! as "'church traditional work [of] gilt aureoles and the conventionalism of early priesthood, which we [Protestant Britons] did away with at the Reformation'" (1:155) (17) and saw Rossetti himself as '"a sly Italian'" who self-servingly deviated from the tenets of Pre-Raphaelitism that were laid down by the two real founders of the PRB, these being, needless to say, Hunt and Millais (1:155-56, 2:301-302).

When Hunt points out that the "little ... screen" that divides the interior from the exterior in Girlhood of Mary Virgin is Gothic (1:85) and Alastair Grieve suggests that "the Virgin is seated on a Gothic stool that appears to be taken from Pugin's Gothic Furniture of 1835," (18) they are identifying some of the "mediaevalisms" that Rossetti came to regard as "absurd." Other such violations of "modern" antiquarianism in the realm of "costumes and accessories" in the painting include the garments of both the Virgin and her mother, St. Anne, neither of whom is clothed in a manner appropriate to Nazareth shortly before the birth of Christ: the Virgin's floor-length dress is grey with brown cuffs, a trailing hem, and a white, pleated neckline, and St. Anne wears a veil and wimple that give her something of the appearance of a Dominican nun. On the floor behind the Virgin is a portative organ--a twelfth-century invention--that, like other aspects of the painting, most obviously the Gothic screen in combination with the red cloth draped over it and the trellis-work cross that centrally surmounts it, alludes to the High Church movement's revival of choral music, altar decorations, and other aspects of Catholic (pre-Reformation, medieval) worship. Moreover, it is quite likely that part of the inspiration for giving Christ's future mother a portative organ in Girlhood of Mary Virgin came from a plate depicting such an instrument in the arms of a young French woman of the fourteenth century--Hunt's despised quattrocento--in Camille Bonnard's Costumes historiques des XIIIe, XIV, e et XVe siecles (1829-30), an 1844 edition of which Rossetti acquired shortly before September 7, 1849. (19) But perhaps the most "absurd" of the painting's "mediaevalisms" is the stack of six enormous books on which the vase containing the lily stands: probably inspired by the volumes carried by a page in Brown's Wycliffe and, according to Hunt, modeled on six "weighty tomes from [the Rossetti] home" (1:83), the books are not just disproportionately large; they are entirely anachronistic, a fact that Rossetti intimated as early as November 1848 when he told his godfather, Charles Lyell, that he had decided to depict "the future mother of Our Lord ... embroidering a lily" because "reading from a book" is "an occupation obviously incompatible with those times" (C, 1:75) (20) However, even in giving the Virgin a historically appropriate occupation (and one that is also consistent with the apocryphal gospels of the Legenda Aurea [Golden Legends] on which the painting is largely based), the subject of the embroidery--an Easter (or Madonna) lily "watered" by an angel and standing in an ornate vase--derives from late medieval and subsequent depictions of the Annunciation. Given the roomful of anachronisms in Girlhood of Mary Virgin, it is thus entirely understandable that in 1851 Rossetti came to regard its "mediaevalisms" as "absurd," but the positive response to these very elements when the painting was exhibited in the spring of 1849--the review in the Athenaeum evoked '"the early Florentine monastic painters'" (qtd. in Hunt 1:120)--can only have encouraged him to produce a pendant in the same mode. (21) Not that he needed much encouragement, for the "instinctive turning back to get round by another road" that Brown came to see as the cause of"stumbling work at best" (qtd. in Bendiner, p. 9) appears to have been a core part of his ontological disposition and would remain a constant throughout most of his literary and artistic life.


During the years immediately preceding and following the formation of the PRB, Rossetti's "instinctual turning back" was by no means confined to Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini!. In November 1847, he sent an introductory selection of his poems that probably included early versions of "The Blessed Damozel" and "Ave" ("Mater Pulchrae Delectionis") to William Bell Scott under the title "Songs of the Art Catholic," by which, according to William Michael, he "meant to suggest that the poems embodied conceptions and a point of view related to pictorial art--also that this art was, in sentiment though not necessarily in dogma, Catholic--mediaeval and unmodern." (22) A few weeks later--either in late December 1847 or early January 1848--he sent another introductory selection of his work that included some of his translations of "pre-Dantesque poets" as well as some of his original poems to Leigh Hunt, who commented approvingly on their "Dantesque heavens," a phrase that Rossetti took to "refer ... to one or two poems"--probably "The Blessed Damozel" and "Mater Pulchrae Delectionis"--"the scene of which is laid in the celestial regions, and which are written in a kind of Gothic manner" (C, 1:385, 49-52, 63). "For an Annunciation, Early German," Rossetti's first sonnet for a picture, dates from 1847, as does "Retro me, Sathana!," the earliest sonnet in The House of Life (1870, 1881). In 1848 came "Dante at Verona" and, in marked contrast to what he perhaps already recognized as the "absurd mediaevalism" of Girlhood of Mary Virgin, his most ambitious literary attempt of the Pre-Raphaelite period to use historically "correct costumes and accessories": "Bride-chamber Talk" or, as it later became, The Bride's Prelude.

Although The Bride's Prelude was begun in 1848, Rossetti does not appear to have worked on it intensively until the autumn of 1849. "Gabriel wrote three stanzas of "Bride-chamber Talk,'" recorded William Michael in his entry in the P.R.B. Journal for November of that year, and in the entries for December 8 and 15: "he has recently written various new stanzas of 'Bride-chamber Talk'," but "there is some fear ... of ... [his] being unable, thr[ough] the press of time as regards his picture"--that is, Ecce Ancilla Domini!--"to get 'Bride-chamber Talk' finished ... for No. 2" of the Germ (February 1850). (23) Despite the fact that Rossetti continued to add stanzas to the poem in January and February 1850, work on Ecce Ancilla Domini!, did prevent him from completing it in time for publication in The Germ (see PRBJ 27, 40, 48, 49 and C, 1:86, 93, 96, 129). In fact, The Bride's Prelude was never finished, but, after further additions in 1869-70 and 1880-81, it was eventually published "'on the perilous precedent of Coleridge"' (Rossetti, qtd. in W.M. Rossetti, "Notes," p. 648)--probably the Coleridge of"Christabel" rather than the "Kubla Khan"--as a fragment in Poeres: A New Edition (1881). Nor was the need to work on Ecce Ancilla Domini! the only reason that The Bride's Prelude was not finished in 1850, for according to a letter of May 2, 1870 it was "deemed immoral (!) by ... [the PRB's] proprietor"--presumably the publisher of The Germ--and abandoned (C, 1:144), not to be taken up again until it was recovered from Elizabeth Siddal's coffin in 1869. Since that "proprietor" (Aylott and Jones) was a firm that specialized in religious publications, the term "immoral" should not have come as such a surprise, for the tale told by the bride Aloyse as she opens a "dull chamber in ... [her] heart" to her younger sister and bridesmaid Amelotte turns on her "passionate fierce" extramarital affair with the bridegroom Urscelyn, a bastard relative who, after helping to restore her to health following a riding accident, seduces her and leaves her with an illegitimate baby that is taken from her and murdered by her three brothers (11. 916,375).

None of Rossetti's surviving references to The Bride's Prelude does more to illuminate his approach to the poem in the days of the PRB than the brief remarks apropos the poem that he made in a letter written a little over a week before he and Hunt returned to England after their trip to northern France and Belgium in the autumn of 1849: "I almost fear that I shall not do much, if anything, to Bride-Chamber Talk, till my return. Before leaving Paris, we went to the Hotel de Cluny, a first-rate place, which will be of great use to me in finishing this poem. Could I do it on the spot, I fancy I should be a made man. I fear there is no chance now of going to Brittany" (C, 1:125). Besides pointing to Rossetti's trip to the Continent as a further reason for his failure to complete The Bride's Prelude, these remarks indicate that he wanted to compose the poem in accordance with the Pre-Raphaelite principles of "modern" antiquarianism and truth to Nature: the medieval artifacts in the Hotel de Cluny (now the Musee national du Moyen Age) would contribute to its historical accuracy and a visit to Brittany for the purpose of meeting Charles Wells (whose short stories Rossetti greatly admired) would have taken him to the specific area of France in which it presumably takes place and ensured an accurate rendition of its setting. Hunt can only have been delighted that in The Bride's Prelude Rossetti was at least trying to obey the rules that he had so conspicuously flouted in Girlhood of Mary Virgin.

In addition to being two of the most prominent markers of the poem's French setting, the names Aloyse and Amelotte suggest a literary rather than a material inspiration for the immediate surroundings of the two women, a room in which "the haloed lattice panes" of a window admit enough light to "shut out full repose" even in the room's shady inner recesses (ll. 8-9, 26, 11-15). Prominent among the aristocratic women who engaged in an intrigue surrounding a recent betrothal, an imminent marriage, and the revelation of a secret in Book 7, Chapter 1 of Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) are Aloise de Gondelaurier and Amelotte de Montmichel, the former an elderly widow and the latter one among four highly sexualized "demoiselles" whose nubile bodies and rich costumes are described in the sort of detail that would surely have appealed to Rossetti: "A la longueur du voile qui tombait, du sommet de leur coiffe pointue enroulee de perles jusqu' a leur talons, a la finesse de la chemisette brodee qui couvrait leurs epaules et laisse voir, selon la mode engageante d'alors, la naissance de leurs belles gorges de vierges, a l'opulence de leurs jupes de dessous, plus precieuses encore que leur surtout (recherche merveilleuse!)". (24) The "walls" of the room in which Aloyse and Amelotte converse in The Bride's Prelude are "screened" with "long brocade" and in the recess of its "window" "The light [is] counterchanged / In blent reflexes manifold / From perfume-caskets of wrought gold / And gems the bride's hair could not hold" (ll. 8-9, 16-20). In Hugo's novel, the room in which Aloise de Gondelaurier converses with a handsome young officer about the betrothal and marriage is "une chambre richement tapissee" in which "mille bizarres sculptures peintes et dorees" delight the eye and "splendides emaux chatoyaint ca et la" from carved chests (2:5). The Bride's Prelude is set in the late morning and Hugo's chapter in the late afternoon but both concern the revelation of a secret and both make use of the contrast between sunlight and shadow, as does the illustration to the chapter by Alfred Barbou in the first edition of Notre-Dame de Paris. Indeed, Rossetti's opening description of "Amelotte laugh[ing] into the air / With eyes that s[eek] the sun" and "Aloyse [sitting] within the shade" "where the walls in long brocade / Were screened" (11.6-10) corresponds to the position of Amelotte and Aloise both in Babour's illustration and in Hugo's Chapter: the latter sits "[a]u fond" du "chambre richement tapissee ... dans un riche fauteuil de velours rouge" while the former stands with her friends "partie dans le chambre, partie sur le balcon" (2:3-4).

Similar though they are in name and other respects, the Amelottes of Notre-Dame de Paris and The Bride's Prelude differ in one important respect that reflects Rossetti's (and Hugo's) commitment to historical accuracy: their costumes. As would be expected in a novel set in Paris in 1482, Amelotte wears the conical, "high-tower or steeple-shaped head-dress" of the sort that Bonnard claims was "en usage en France pendant tout le XVc siecle" (25) but that Henry Shaw in Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages (1843) states came into fashion "about the middle of the century." (26) The fact that in The Bride's Prelude Aloyse "wears jewels in her hair" rather than a conical headdress accords with William Michael's suggestion that the poem is set in the first half of the fifteenth century, perhaps in c. 1439 (see "Notes," pp. 648-649) (27) and, therefore, in the closing years of the Hundred Years' War (which, of course, ended in 1453). It also suggests that, although Rossetti owned a copy of Bonnard's Costumes by early September 1849, he drew upon Shaw for his descriptions of the women's costumes in the poem, an inference supported by the presence in the descriptions of various items mentioned by Shaw but not by Bonnard: "garlands of gold and rich perles" (the "jewels in [Aloyse's] hair"), "girdles of gold and silver" (Amelotte's "loin-belt" is "silver)," and the "richly embroidered," close-fitting "vest ... distinguished by the name cotte-hardie" (Amelotte's "cote-hardie" and Aloyse's "vest ... rich in grain, / With close pearls wholly overset") (Shaw, "Introduction," n.p.; The Bride's Prelude, 11. 30-43). (28)

One further aspect of The Bride's Prelude may derive at least in part from Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages: the careful placement of Aloyse's lover and future husband Urscelyn in relation to the "three classes or castes of society" that, according to Shaw, were "acknowledged by the Middle Ages in England, France, and Germany,--the knight or soldier, the clerk or scholar, and the husbandman or labourer" ("Ladies Playing on the Harp and Organ" np). As a "young lord" who is "akin... in part" to Aloyse's and Amelotte's family (he bears their "shield, but barred athwart" as a sign of his status as a bastard), (29) Urscelyn is proficient in "letter-lore and medicine" on account of his education by priests (11. 233,254-255) and thus shares elements of both the "knight or soldier" and the "clerk or scholar" classes but does not belong entirely to either of them. In combination, his medical skills and marginal social position make plausible his summons to Aloyse's sick bed and make him a believable object of her affections and, in due course, the enmity of her brothers. The fact that he is on the periphery of the "knight or soldier" class also makes credible the developments that Rossetti envisaged in a c.1878 "memorandum ... of the contemplated conclusion of the poem": after becoming "'celebrated as a soldier of fortune ... his influence as a soldier renders a lasting bond with him desirable to the brothers of Aloyse ... and he, on his side, is bent on assuming an important position in the family to which he as yet only half belongs"' (qtd. in W.M. Rossetti, "Notes," p. 648). (30) In the existing fragment of The Bride's Prelude the details of his manner, station, and the events surrounding him-his "bowing low" as he passes Aloyse, his ambition to win "the title ... Lord Urscelyn," the "The rushes [laid] thick for his steel shoes" by her attendants (ll. 340, 455, 102)--all bespeak Rossetti's determination to make Urscelyn a credible historical character.

The same is obviously true of the bride herself in her characterization and actions as much as in her costume and jewelry. Cowering in the shade in fearful apprehension of the effect on her sister of the light that she feels compelled to shed on her past, Aloyse is presented to the mind's eye through a verbal picture that could easily be a description of a Pre-Raphaelite painting or drawing of a despondent woman; in fact, her posture and expression anticipate by several years those of Ophelia in Rossetti's pen-and-ink drawing of Hamlet and Ophelia (1858):
   Her arms were laid along her lap
      With the hands open: life
   Itself did seem at fault in her:
   Beneath the drooping brows, the stir
   Of thought made noonday heavier. (ll.46-50)

As Aloyse reveals her secret, her psychological anguish and Amelotte's pained responses are represented in a series of vividly pictorial actions, postures, and facial expressions. Aloyse "summon[s] breath to speak" with a "gasp" that simultaneously "Fan[s] high th[e] furnace of... [her] cheek" with shame and "suck[s] ... [her] heart-pulse cold and weak" with dread (11.52-55). Before naming Urscelyn as her lover, she indicates her fearfulness and vulnerability by "hid[ing] her face against the back" of her chair and taking her "elbows in her hands," and after she has named him she "presse[s] / Her hand against her throat" and "let[s] trail / Her face" "Along the arras.., as if all heart d[oes] fail, / And s[its] with shut eyes, dumb and pale" (ll. 86-88, 91-95). At other points in her tale, her "dry lips" are held apart, she pauses as if "to look for questioning," she smites "her forehead... [against] the wall," and she observes that "'the sun.., does not let. .. her breathe: the drouth / Is like sand spread within [her] mouth"' (ll. 146-147, 262-267,429, 496, 824-825). When Aloyse recalls that she "'lay and bit [her] hair in anguish after an earlier, failed attempt to tell Amelotte "'Something of the.., tale'" (11. 131-132), her action anticipates that of Delia in Rossetti's The Return of Tibullus to Delia (c.1853), studies for which were made in 1851.

Amelotte's most complex response to Aloyse's tale follows the initial revelation of her affair with Urscelyn:
   Her fingers felt her temples beat;
      Then came that brain-sickness
   Which thinks to scream, and murmureth;
   And pent between her hands, the breath
   Was damp against her face like death.

   Her arms both fell at once; but when
      She gasped upon the light,
   Her sense returned. She would have pray'd
   To change whatever words still stay'd
   Behind but felt there was no aid.

   So she rose up, and having gone
      Within the window's arch
   Once more, she sat there, all intent
   On torturing doubts, and once more bent
   To hear, in mute bewilderment. (ll. 401-415)

Each of Amelotte's actions--touching her temples, (31) cupping her mouth with her hands, dropping her arms to her sides, returning to her window seat, and leaning forward to listen--reflects a stage in her response to her sister's revelations, as do her "pale cheeks," her "eyes / Sore troubled," and her weary and heavy "brows" when the bulk of the tale has been told (ll. 827-829). To the extent that she listens and responds to Aloyse's tale, Amelotte is a surrogate for the reader in the poem and, as such, a poetic equivalent of such figures as John the Baptist in Millais' Christ in the House of His Parents and the two knights on the right of the picture space in James Collinson's The Renunciation of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, part of whose function is to direct the spectator's response to the incidents depicted in the painting.

Taken in the aggregate, the mentally and emotionally motivated postures, actions, and facial expressions of Aloyse and Amelotte suggest that one of Rossetti's goals in writing The Bride's Prelude was to give vivid poetic expression to an emerging and, in time, central preoccupation of his painting, namely, the physical effects and manifestations in women of intense mental, emotional, and spiritual states. '"Strange quick heat / Made all the blood of my life meet,'" explains Aloyse as she describes Urscelyn's initial overtures to her; "'His hot lips stung my hand'" (ll. 384-385,389). Of the early stages of her pregnancy, she recalls that she had
      "such yearnings as brought tears,
   And a wan dizziness:
   Motion, like feeling, grew intense;
   Sight was a haunting evidence
   And sound a pang that snatched the sense." (ll. 591-595)

Merely hearing Urscelyn's name "'made sight / And hearing whirl"'; as she recalls receiving the news of her baby's death "Bitter" "tears ... F[a]ll down her breast along her curls, / And r[u]n in the close work of her pearls"; when she learned that Urscelyn was not dead, she "'sat sick and giddy in full view: / Yet did none gaze" because "so many knew"' of her illicit relationship with him (ll. 621-622, 782-785,899-900). Accompanying these and similar passages are others in which Aloyse describes her responses to the feelings of guilt and shame that are generated by her affair with Urscelyn:
   "Oh! if I met him in the day
      Or heard his voice,--at meals
   Or at the Mass or through the hall,--
   A look turned towards me would appal
   My heart by seeming to know all.

   "Yet I grew curious of my shame,
      And sometimes in the church,
   On hearing such a sin rebuked,
   Have held my girdle-glass unhooked
   To see how such a woman looked." (ll. 566-575)

Despite her efforts to rid herself of "shame" by casting it out and by confessing to a priest, Aloyse still harbors the overwhelming desire to confide in Amelotte that provides the impetus for the poem and at last yields her a degree of "solace" and "peace" when her sister, whose "curse" she had feared, "blesse[s] her instead," saying simply "'thank God that he / Whom thou hast loved loveth thee"' (ll.513, 494-520).

But, comforting as they are, Amelotte's words are merely the kind utterance of a sister rather than the ultimate judgement of Aloyse's conduct, which, as she recognizes and as Amelotte confirms, must come from God (ll. 421-430, 491-492). (32) By inserting into the exchange between the two sisters at this point a reference to an "arras" that illustrates "Two Testaments, New and Old, / In shapes and meanings manifold" (ll. 509-510), Rossetti invokes the laws of Justice and Mercy as the framework in which Aloyse will ultimately be judged and also includes in the poem an instance of "the intimate intertexture of a spiritual sense with a material form" that William Michael identifies as the kernel of the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic. (33) Perhaps because much it was

written between Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini!, The Bride's Prelude is less freighted with emblematic adjuncts than the former and more akin to the latter in its metaphorical use of the entry of light into a chamber. Nevertheless, the poem does contain several significant details: on account of its shape and association with lasciviousness, (34) the "slim-curved lute" that is unintentionally "sh[aken] to music" by Amelotte in the opening stanzas sounds the poem's keynote of female sexual transgression and its consequences; the "caged bird" that "chirp[s]" near the beginning of Aloyse's tale is an emblem of her sense of entrapment and her desire to speak; her failure as a young woman to "train ... a hound ... [or] rule a horse" reflects her later inability to control her and Urscelyn's sexual desire; (35) the "two rooks" that "toil ... / Home to the nests that crown ... / Ancestral ash-trees" suggest the domesticity that has so far eluded her; the white swans that grace a "lake" in the castle "pleasaunce" bespeak her lost innocence; and the "sea-mews" that are "flung, wild-clamouring, in the house" to which she flees with her family before the birth of her ill-fated baby allude to the adage that a bird in the house foreshadows an impending death (11.22-25,153,195,281-283,289-290, 704-705). Adding to the poem's "intertexture" are the biblical allusions that can be heard in the conversation of the two women, for example, 1 Samuel 3.9 ("Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth") in Amelotte's "Speak, sister; for 1 hear'" and Job 2.9 ("Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die") in Aloyse's "'Towards noon, I, waking sore aggrieved, / That I might die, cursed God, and lived'" (11.420, 684-685).

The reference to "noon" in Aloyse's statement is one of many (36) that not only unify The Bride's Prelude, but also connect it to Ecce Ancilla Domini! and to several other Rossetti works of the Pre-Raphaelite period. The setting of Ecce Ancilla Domini! is, of course (and as stated by the first of the two sonnets for Girlhood of Mary Virgin), the "dawn" when the "awe"-struck Virgin Mary "woke in her white bed" to find the announcing angel in her chamber, the dove representing the Holy Spirit flying in to (and into) her, and the "sunlight"--the radiance of the sun/son--entering a window from which the curtain has been withdrawn (p. 186). Either as the matrix or as an analogue, this moment of intense, life-changing illumination (revelation, disclosure) raises echoes in a number of written works of 1849-50 in which moments of awe occur in architectural settings, not at dawn, but in the even more intensely illuminating light of noon. Prominent among these are "Pax Vobis" (1849), where Father Hilary receives spiritual illumination in a room at the top of a belfry during an "autumn noon" (1.349), and "Hand and Soul" (1849) where the fictional painter Chiaro's soul is revealed to him in his room "within a short space of noon," when "suddenly he found awe within him, and held his head bowed, without stirring. (37) The warmth of the air was not shaken; but there seemed a pulse in the light, and a living freshness, like rain. ... The air brooded in sunshine, and ... the air within was at peace" (pp. 313-315). While the noon annunciations (as they might be called) of "Pax Vobis," "Hand and Soul," and other works are essentially positive this is far from the case in The Bride's Prelude, where the "many sunlights" of noon "barbed with darts / Of dread detecting flame" are conjoined with "Gaunt moonlights that like sentinels / Went past with iron clank of bells" in a concatenation that is as painful for Amelotte to hear as it is for Aloyse to confront.

In its attention to historical accuracy, its concentration on the psychophysical consequences of female sexual transgression, its combination of "spiritual sense with material form," and its adaptation of the (noon) annunciation pattern The Bride's Prelude is certainly what Eva Tietz calls a consummate example of Rossetti's early style ("ein Musterbeispiel fur seinen fruhen Stil"). (38) Although never finished, it is nevertheless the most extensive as well as the most ambitious written product of the "instinctual turning back" that would reassert itself as the PRB began to dissolve. While he was working hard on Found in 1853 (or perhaps a little earlier), he transformed an 1849 prose draft based on two tales in the Gesta Romanorum into "The Staff and Scrip" (1849-56); (39) in November 1853, he praised "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table"--possibly Robert Southey's 1817 edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur (40)--as "overwhelmingly stunning" (C, 1:300); and in October 1854, he took up the task of "translating the pre-Dantesque poets" that he had largely set aside in the early 'ftfties. (41) At about the same time he absented himself from "the hateful mechanical brick-painting" necessitated by Found to write "Stratton Water" (1853-54, 1869), a literary (or art) ballad that he described casually but tellingly to his friend and fellow poet William Allingham as "professedly modern-antique" (C, 1:385,389)--a phrase that cannot be applied to The Bride's Prelude because that poem does not claim to be an imitation of a medieval form or genre.


Like "The Staff and Scrip," "Stratton Water" begins with a question, a device whose immediate effect is to spark the curiosity and secure the interest of the reader. In this case, the question is posed by a servant of the protagonist, Lord Sands, and comes with an emphasis on the sense of sight and a sequence of descriptive details that encourage the reader to visualize the scene in front of the two men and to imagine it from the "Catholic ... mediaeval and unmodern" point-of-view (42)--of Lord Sands and, in due course, the narrator. The opening stanzas of "Stratton Water" also contain two additional place names ('"Hutron,'" "'Borrowbrake'") (43) and a series of references to rural and aristocratic life ('"hounds,'" "'new-mownhay'" "'standingcom,'" "'castle-stair'") that work with the title, the ballad form, and a smattering of archaic words such as "stakes" for "stacks" to establish the poem's geographical and historical setting as that of the Border Ballads of the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries that were brought to prominence by Sir Walter Scott in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802, 1803). (44) By echoing the biblical (and Marian) phrase "great with child" (Luke 2.5), the servant's opening description of "Stratton flood" as "great with rain" is a "pregnant metaphor" (Keane, p. 66) that subtly anticipates the poem's theme of childbirth:
   "O have you seen the Stratton flood
      That's great with rain to-day?
   It runs beneath your wall, Lord Sands,
      Full of the new-mown hay.

   "I led your hounds to Hutton bank
      To bathe at early morn:
   They got their bath by Borrowbrake
      Above the standing com."

   Out from the castle-stair Lord Sands
      Looked up the western lea;
   The rook was grieving on her nest,
      The flood was round her tree.

   Over the castle-wall Lord Sands
      Looked down the eastern hill:
   The stakes swam free among the boats,
      The flood was rising still. (11.1-16)

Some of the visual details and part of the sensual impact of these stanzas may be due to their origin in the "wonderful things" that Rossetti witnessed in July 1853 on a walking excursion near Stratford in Warwickshire, where the "heavy flood[ing]" of the Avon River left an "extremely ancient disused chapel and churchyard ... islanded" among "fields full of water in which the trees and hurdles and hedges stood reflected" (C, 1:314-315). "The crops were under water and the hay going down the current," he told William Bell Scott on 19 July; "It suggested a ballad which I have partly written and mean to finish" (C, 1:277). The scene "would have made a most solemn picture," he added to Woolner on February 7, 1854 (C, 1:315)--and, indeed, did and does, albeit as a textual effect, in the opening stanzas of "Stratton Water."

The stimulus to curiosity and the pressure to envisage the setting of "Stratton Water" continue in the ensuing stanzas with the introduction of an enigmatic object that generates a series of questions by Lord Sands and answers by his dissembling servant regarding the object's identity:
   "What's yonder far below that lies
      So white against the slope?"
   "O it's a sail o' your bonny barks
      The waters have washed up."

   "But I have never a sail so white,
      And the water's not yet there."
   "O it's the swans o' your bonny lake
      The rising floods doth scare."

   "The swans they would not hold so still,
      So high they would not win."
   "O its Joyce my wife has spread her smock
      And fears to fetch it in."

   "Nay, knave, it's neither sail nor swans,
      Nor aught that you can say
   For though your wife might leave her smock,
      Herself she'd bring away." (11. 17-40)

Here and in subsequent stanzas, words such as "'bonny,"' "kine," "byre," "nags," "weltering," and "kirk" continue to align the poem with the Border Ballads of Scott's Minstrelsy. But Rossetti's statement to Allingham in a letter of October 15, 1854 that in "Stratton Water" he has "purposely taken an unimportant phrase here and there from the old things" (C 1:390) (45) needs to be expanded to include at least one more recent source, for in certain places such as the narrator's worried interjection "But woe's my heart, for Father John / And the saints he clamoured to" (11. 153-154) there is no mistaking the diction and cadences of English Romanticism's most influential literary ballad: Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a poem that, like the same author's "Christabel" and "Genevieve," (46) doubtless helped to shape Rossetti's conception of the "professedly modern-antique." Whether derived directly or indirectly from medieval sources, the historically and geographically correct form, diction, and phraseology of "Stratton Water" place it firmly on the side of the antiquarianism that Hunt endorsed and regarded as true to Pre-Raphaelite principles.

When Lord Sands makes his way to the "weltering slope" to ascertain the identity of the mysterious "white shape," he discovers that it is Janet, a humble woman who is about to give birth to his illegitimate child and, in the mistaken belief that he has been "'false'" to her, has come to the "flood" to commit suicide (1.73). Since he has been deceived into believing that she has died sometime earlier, Lord Sands initially thinks that he is seeing Janet's "'ghost"' (a common element in Border Ballads) and is briefly astonished ("A moment stood he as a stone") to find her alive (11.48-49). After affirming his love for her and learning of the imminent birth of their baby, he resolves to marry her immediately so as to legitimize the child and thwart his mother and younger brother, who have apparently enlisted the help of his servant in a scheme to convince him that Janet is dead and thus to purloin his title and lands by denying him a legitimate heir. With the river in flood and no help from his recalcitrant servant, Lord Sands faces a formidable challenge in first fetching a priest to perform the marriage ceremony and then getting the wedding party to the "kirk" in time for the ceremony to be performed before the birth of the baby. Cognizant as he is of the need for haste ('"it's one half hour to reach the kirk'"), he is nevertheless attentive to the safety of his dangerously "grey and thin" bride and the baby whose birth is evermore imminent: after "wrap[ping] her in a green mantle" (green, of course, being the color of hope and new life), he "set[s] her softly in" the boat (11. 107, 123-125). Thanks to his combination of gentleness (which is nicely conveyed by the soft consonants, long vowel, and falling rhythm of "softly") and physical exertion and endurance (which are more obviously conveyed by the repetition of "the oars struck" in subsequent stanzas), the "gate of the kirkyard" (11. 133,139) is reached in good time and all that remains is for him to get Janet across the yard to the church.

In his letter of October 15, 1854 to Allingham, Rossetti admits to "doubting whether ... to make the improper lord and lady slip into a new-made [open] grave, while wading through the churchyard, and be drowned" for the sake of "a good description and conclusion" (C, 1:390). He opted for a happy ending, however, so in stanzas "heavy" with the suggestion of a "pass[age] over death to life" (Howard, p.67) Lord Sands succeeds manfully in carrying Janet over his shoulder across the slippery "foot-stone[s]" of the "Kirkyard." (47) After Janet has somewhat ghoulishly reminded her husband of what might have happened if he had not rescued her, the poem ends on an unmitigatedly happy note (and with some loud echoes of the conclusion of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"):
And "Oh!" she said, "on men's shoulders
   I well had thought to wend,

   And well to travel with a priest,
      But not to have cared or ken'd.

   "And Oh!" she said, "it's well this way
      That I thought to have fared, --
   Not to have lighted at the Kirk
      But stopped in the kirkyard.

   "For it's oh and oh I prayed to God,
      Whose rest I hoped to win,
   That when to-night at your board-head
      You'd bid the feast begin,
   This water past your window-sill
      Might bear my body in."

   Now make the white bed warm and soft
      And greet the merry mom.
   The night the mother should have died,
      The young son shall be born. (11. 156-175)

Since the temporal setting of the poem is the period when the '"hay"' and '"corn"' in Lord Sands' fields are in various states of harvest ("new-mown," still "standing," or in "stakes"), the "feast" to which Janet refers may well be part of the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving which in medieval Britain was celebrated on or near the autumn equinox in late September, an appropriate time for the fruition of Janet's pregnancy.

An unemphatic evocation of one of the customs and rituals associated with the seasonal cycle would certainly be in keeping with the poem's more-or-less subtle gestures toward elements of the Christian narrative of sin and redemption. The allusion to the Virgin Mary's pregnancy in the first stanza is fulfilled in the last with the anticipated birth of Janet's baby and the reference to the nuptial bed as "white," a color that not only brings the poem full circle by recalling the mysterious white object of its opening lines, but also evokes the white bed and linens that represent Mary's purity in countless paintings of the Annunciation and, indeed, Ecce Ancilla Domini! This pattern is reinforced when the narrator refers to "saint ... Christopher" as Lord Sands makes his way through the graveyard with Janet over his shoulder, for St. Christopher is best known for carrying the infant Christ on his shoulders across a river. It is also anticipated by two biblical references, both of which are typological and, as such, reflect the knowledge of scriptural typology that Rossetti displays in The Passover of the Holy Family (1849-56 [watercolor], 1867 [sonnet]) and The Seed of David (1858-64): (48) the narrator's reference to the "great fish" that swallows and disgorges Jonah in Jonah 1 and 2, a story that Christ identifies in Matthew 12.40 as a type of his own death and resurrection, and the narrator's reference in the same stanza to Noah, another Old Testament figure who is explicitly linked to Christ in Matthew (see 24.38-39) on account of his role of saviour. Indeed, the presence of the word "flood" in the opening line of "Stratton Water" and the ensuing emphasis on the flood's extent and seeming inexorableness ("Lord Sands / Looked up the western lea ... Looked down the eastern hill: ... The flood was rising still" [11.9-16]) ensures that the narrative of Genesis 6 and 7 is so firmly superimposed on the poem's rescue plot that the reference to "Noah's ark" serves merely to emphasize the obvious connections between "flood" and Flood, Lord Sands and Noah, and the boat in which Lord Sands ferries Janet and Father John to the kirk and the ark in which the "just" and "righteous" Noah rescues his wives and children from a world otherwise populated by the violent and "corrupt" (Genesis 6.9; 7.1; 6.11).

"Stratton Water" cannot be numbered among Rossetti's major works, but it needs to be recognized as part of the ensemble of pictures and poems from the late eighteen forties and early eighteen fifties that anticipated and in some ways prepared the way for his medieval works of the following years and for the work of the second-generation of Pre-Raphaelites. On October 22, 1855 Brown recorded that Rossetti had "finished ... Launcelot offering to Kiss Queen Guenevere at the tomb of K. Arthur"--that is, Arthur's Tomb (1854?-55), his first Arthurian subject (Diary, p. 156). A few month's later, on January 27, 1856, Brown would observe apropos Rossetti's Fra Pace (1856) and Chapel before the Lists (1856-64) that together the two watercolors "form an admirable picture of the world of our fathers with its 4 chief charackteristicts [sic], Religion, Art, Chivalry & love," adding: "[h]is forte, & he seems now to have found it out, is to be a lirical [sic] painter & poet & certainly a glorious one" (p. 163). In the summer of the same year, Rossetti would meet first Burne-Jones and then Morris, and the second professedly, unabashedly, and resolutely medieval phase of Pre-Raphaelitism would begin. For Rossetti, the phase would last for little more than five years, but it would yield such gems as The Blue Closet (1857) and The Tune of the Seven Towers (1857), the watercolors that inspired the poems of the same titles in the slim volume that contains the literary masterpieces of the second generation of Pre-Raphaelites, The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems (1858). Between the late forties and the late fifties, Rossetti's "instinctual turning back" to the Middle Ages generated works as diverse as Girlhood of Mary Virgin and "Stratton Water," Ecce Ancilla Domini! and The Bride's Prelude, that in different ways speak of a poet and painter who yearned with at least part of his being to be "Catholic ... mediaeval and unmodern" and who sometimes came very close to succeeding. When they were exhibited at the International Exhibition in South Kensington in 1862, the stained glass windows of Rossetti's Parable of the Vineyard (1861-62) made by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Co. "were so well done that some of the exhibitors claimed they were touched-up medieval originals and tried to have them excluded!" (49) Tennyson's Arthurian poems mark him as "the modern par excellence, the man of his age," declared Richard Garnett in a review of The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems, but "Rossetti and Morris are men ... of the middle age, and ... [this] increases their interest towards ourselves, as giving us what it would be vain to expect from any one else." (50) Hyperbolic as it is, Garnet's statement speaks to one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's great gifts and achievements in the works examined here: the power to create in their readers and their viewers a sense of being immersed for a short time in an earlier age.


(1) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Correspondence, ed. William E. Fredeman, completed by Robert C. Lewis, Jane Cowan, and Anthony H. Harrison, 9 vols. (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002-10), 1:184-185; hereafter cited as C. Rossetti goes on to protest that the article places too much emphasis on him and too little on William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais and to suggest that this be remedied.

(2) In Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2 vols. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1913), William Holman Hunt reprints the section of the review in the May 7, 1851 issue of the Times in which the Pre-Raphaelites are accused of '"addicting themselves to an antiquated style and an affected simplicity in Painting, which is to genuine art what the mediaeval ballads and designs in Punch are to Chaucer and Giotto,'" and states that the only "paper in England that did not join in the hue and cry" was "The Spectator, the editor of which permitted William Rossetti to defend our cause according to his best light" (1:178-180). In his article, a revised version of which appears under the title "Praeraphaelitism" in his Fine Art, Chiefly Contemporary (1867; New York: AMS Press, 1970), pp. 168-177, William Michael asserts that "modern Pre-Raphaelitism is ... distinct from mediaevalism of thought and of practice" and argues that, whereas the German Nazarenes "recur ... to the purest form of a school ready-organized for them," the "English revivalists recur to the one primary school--nature, as interpreted by their own eyes and feelings" ("Pre-Raphaelitism," Spectator [October 4, 1851]: 956).

(3) Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1999), pp. 14, 25.

(4) See Kenneth Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth-and Twentieth-Century Architecture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), p. 40

(5) Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1978), pp. 147, 155.

(6) Joyce H. Townsend, Jacqueline Ridge, and Stephen Hackney, Pre-Raphaelite Painting Techniques: 1848-56 (London: Tate Publishing, 2004), pp. 80, 102.

(7) The word "further" that has been elided from this quotation makes the statement more slippery than ir might first appear. See also Hunt, 1:38, 226-228.

(8) Not surprisingly, progressivism and revivalism came equipped with two parallel but opposing narratives of the history of western art. From a progressivist perspective such as that of Georgio Vasari, the story was one of the lamentable eclipse of classicism with the collapse of the Roman Empire and its glorious reappearance in the Renaissance (The Lives of the Artists, trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998], p. 5). From a revivalist perspective such as that of A. W. Pugin, the collapse of the Roman Empire was also a turning point, but for the better (Contrasts, ed. H. R. Hitchcock [1841; New York: Humanities Press, 1969], p.7). See also Rossetti's "Old and New Art" sonnets where post-Renaissance paintings are characterized as "soulless self-reflections of man's skill" and Victorian painters are urged, first discursively and then parabolically, to look to "the lights of the great Past, new-lit" as a means of enabling "Art [to] ... Kneel in the latter grass to pray again" (Collected Poetry and Prose, ed. Jerome McGann [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2003], p. 160). Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations of Rossetti's poems and fiction are taken from McGann's edition.

(9) Qtd. in Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonne (2 vols; New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2006), 1:135.

(10) Despite his claims to be indifferent to the issue of who was leader of the PRB, Hunt repeatedly attacks advocates of Rossetti's leadership in Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ; see, for example, 2:105, 2:127, 2:357.

(11) Around the middle of the eighteenth century, the word "quaint" and its cognates acquired its modern sense of "pleasingly old-fashioned" (OED). In letters to William Bell Scott in the summer of 1871, Rossetti describes "quaint" as an "infernal," "hellish," and "insidious" word that has not been applied to his own work "through a lapse of years" (C, 5:94, 123, and see 142)--presumably since the days of the PRB. Hunt's hostility to the "old-fashioned" in Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood dictates that "quaint" and "quaintness" are at least as pejorative as they are denotative in the comments quoted above.

(12) The relationship between the Pre-Raphaelities and the French Troubadour painters of the post-Restoration period, especially Ary Scheffer, remains to be studied in detail, but see my "'La Bocca Mi Bacio': The Love Kiss in the Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti," Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, NS 16 (Spring 2007): 42n7 for some observations regarding Scheffer's possible impact on Rossetti's Paolo and Francesca da Rimini (1855).

(13) See also Kenneth Bendiner, The Art of Ford Madox Brown (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1998), pp.l-22.

(14) The reference here is to Friedrich Overbeck, one of the principal members, with Peter Cornelius and Franz Pforr, of the group of German painters who styled themselves the Lukasbund (Brotherhood of St. Luke) and were known pejoratively as the Nazarenes after they took up residence in a disused monastery near Rome. While in Rome for some eight months in 1845, Brown came to know and admire Overbeck, Cornelius, and their work.

(15) The "Gothic screen" and the green curtain behind the Virgin conceal most of the distant background, and obviate the need to create much of an illusion of depth, which is rudimentarily suggested by a stretch of water and some houses in the far distance.

(16) In Rossetti's sonnets on Girlhood of Mary Virgin, the briar forms a cross with a "palm seven-leaved" that represents the Virgin's "great reward" (McGann, p. 186).

(17) These views echo responses to Ecce Ancilla Domini! when it was exhibited in 1850, but even while it was in progress misgivings were expressed about its Catholic quality: see C, 1:88 for Rossetti's comment to Frederic George Stephens that "[m]y people [presumably members of the Rossetti family] are beginning to wail and lament over the Popish inscription I propose copying from your brass" onto its frame. These were later removed and the painting renamed The Annunciation to diminish the Popishness that caused a furor when it was exhibited in 1850.

(18) Alistair Grieve, "The Content and Form of Furniture in Rossetti's Art of 1848-58," Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, NS 8 (Fall 1999): 11.

(19) "Now for a grand piece of news. My dear P.R.B. I have got Bonnard!!!--a most stunning copy too," Rossetti enthused to Stephens on September 7, 1849 (C, 1:89). In "Books Belonging to Dante G. Rossetti," an inventory of his brother's library compiled around 1866, now in Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of British Columbia, William Michael gives 1844 as the date of the edition.

(20) Rossetti's reference to Murillo in his dismissal of paintings of "the Education of the Blessed Virgin" that depict her reading a book suggests that he had in mind the Spanish Baroque artist's Annunciation (1660-65) in which she has been reading a book that rests on a lectern beside a lily in a vase (C, 1:75).

(21) There is a good deal of evidence in The Germ to suggest that even before the inception of Ecce Ancilla Domini! in late November 1849 there were doubts expressed to and by members of the PRB about the merits of revivalism. Although the four numbers of the magazine were assembled and published over a matter of months in late 1849 and early 1850, they reveal increasing misgivings about the validity of medieval subject-matter and a commensurately increasing endorsement of modern subject-matter, culminating in Stephens' vigorous advice to young artists in "Modern Giants" essay in the final number (May 1850) to focus on modern life.

(22) "Notes," in Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Works (London: Ellis, 1911), p. 661.

(23) The P. R. B. Journal: William Michael Rossetti's Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1849-1853, together with Other Pre. Raphaelite Documents, ed. William E. Fredeman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), pp. 24, 30, 32; hereafter cited as PRBJ.

(24) Notre. Dame de Paris, in L'Oeuvre complete de Victor Hugo, ed. Louis Ulbach (Paris: Editions Jean de Bonnet, 1974), 2:4.

(25) Camille Bonnard, Costumes historiques des XIIIe, XIV, e ,et XVe siecles, extraits des monuments les plus authentiques de peinture et de sculpture, dessines et graves par P. Mercurj, avec un texte historique et descriptif, 2 vols. (1829-30; London, 1844), 2:71. See also Eriko Yamaguchi, "Rossetti's Use of Bonnard's Costumes Historiques: A Further Examination, with an Appendix on Other Pre-Raphaelite Artist," Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, NS 9 (Fall 2000): 6-36, for the extensive use of Bonnard by the Pre-Rapahelites.

(26) Henry Shaw, "Introduction," Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages, 2 vols (London, 1843), n.p.

(27) In a note to the passage in which Aloyse describes the loss of her family's "'wealth ... / And lands"' when '"The Prince was fled into the west"'(11. 597-601), William Michael doubts that his "brother intended this part of the poem to have any sort of historical background" but concedes that "he may have been thinking of the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XI, who headed the 'Praguerie,' an unsuccessful coalition against the project of a standing army, in 1439" ("Notes," pp. 648-649).

(28) The final two lines of Rossetti's description of Aloyse's costume--"Around her throat the fastenings met / Of chevesayle and mantelet" (11.44-45)--may derive in part from Shaw's statement that "over the ... [cotte-hardie] was worn a large flowing mantle, buttoned over the shoulder.... This mantle was in general thrown over the back, so as to leave the front of the body uncovered' ("Introduction" n.p). The fact that Shaw nowhere uses the words "mantelet" or "chevesayle" (the "part of any garment which goes round the neck") suggests that Rossetti used another source for these details, perhaps, for the latter, Le Roman de la Rose, where the lady wears a "chevesaile' secured by two gold fastenings adorned with jewels (OED Online, s.v. "chevesaile.").

(29) For a perceptive discussion of the influence of heraldry on the design of The Blue Closet (1857), The Wedding of St. George and the Princess Sabra (1857), and other Rossetti watercolors of the late fifties, see Elizabeth K. Helsinger, Poetry and the Pre-Raphaelite Arts: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2008), pp. 80-82. The "lozenged arm-bearings" on the clasp of Amelotte's belt in The Bride's Prelude, may have been partly suggested by the "wedded eagles" of the heroine of Tennyson's "Godiva" (1842), the introduction of which Rossetti "imitated" in "At the Station of the Versailles Railway" (The Poems of Tennyson, ed. Christopher Ricks, 3 vols [Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987], 2:171; W.M. Rossetti, PRBJ, p. 20; D.G. Rossetti, Collected Poetry and Prose, p. 351). It is possible that the "shameless noon" (1. 74) of Tennyson's poem and such of its lines as "The deep air listened round her" (1.54) were also in Rossetti's mind when he wrote The Bride's Prelude.

(30) The outline indicates that Urscelyn has gone on to kill a knight to whom Aloyse became engaged during his absence and that her brothers are planning to kill him after he has married her, a final twist apparently suggested by Swinburne (see W.M. Rossetti, "Notes," p. 648) that would have brought the poem closer to his own work and that of Morris in The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems (1858) in its depiction of the Middle Ages as an era of complex treachery and brutal violence.

(31) This gesture, which echoes that of Guenevere in the opening lines of "The Defence of Guenevere" (Collected Works, ed. May Morris, 24 vols [London Longman Green, 1945], 11.3-7, "Her hand close to her mouth touched her cheek ... her cheek burned so, / She must a little touch it, "can be read through Maurice Merleau-Ponty's "The Intertwining--the Chiasm," in The Visible and the Invisible, ed. Claude Lefort, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1968) as an act of experiencing the body/self as both a subject and an object that has strong reverberations elsewhere in Rossetti's work, not least in The House of Life (1870, 1881).

(32) After she has called to God to be her judge rather than her sister, Aloyse smites her forehead against the wall and asks "'Is there a God ... at all,"' a question that recalls her earlier statement that '"though ... [she] loved not holy things, / To hear them scorned brought pain'" (11. 430,206-207) and may well reflect Rossetti's own agnosticism.

(33) "Introduction," The Germ, ed. William Michael Rossetti (London: Stock, 1901), p. 18.

(34) See Rossetti's "To Caper Nimbly in a Lady's Chamber / To the Lascivious Pleasing of a Lute" (1850) and the closely related Borgia (1851, 1858), both of which also contain a monkey, an animal traditionally associated with lust and vice.

(35) The sound of a "hound" "plung[ing]" into and "swimming in the

moat" (11. 279-280) a little later in the poem may also be an emblem of lust in action.

(36) Aloyse first meets Urscelyn in the '"dead [of] night ... near on twelve,"' but it is "'at noons"' that she regularly meets him after recovering from her riding accident and it is on an "'autumn noon"' that she first recognizes her love for him (11. 241, 329, 349). Her baby is born at noon, she curses God at noon, and, of course, she recounts her tale to Amelotte in the period immediately preceding and following noon (see 11.748,685, 5,286, 461-463,764-766, and, for the "fine unity" of the poem, see Ronnalie Roper Howard, The Dark Glass: Vision and Technique in the Poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Ohio Univ. Press, 1972], p. 28).

(37) Other works in which noon is associated with revelation or disclosure include "On Mary's Portrait" (1848), where the speaker receives a vision of the Virgin Mary and Raphael in heaven at noon; "Hist!" Said Kate the Queen (1849-51), an illustration of the song in the "Noon" act of Robert Browning's Pippa Passes (1841); "The Sea-Limits" (1849), which is entitled "From the Cliffs: Noon" in the third number of The Germ; and two pieces written in Belgium, "On the Road to Waterloo; 17 October" and "A Half-Way Pause." Noon also figures as the time when extraordinary perceptions and apprehensions occur in "Silent Noon" (1871) and in a later addition to "The Blessed Damozel."

(38) Eva Tietz, "Das Malerische in Rossettis Dichtung," Anglia 51 (1927: 285.

(39) See my "Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'The Staff and Scrip' and Related Pictures," The Year's Work in Medieval Studies, 12 (2008), ed. M. J. Toswell (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2009), pp. 109-127 for a detailed reading of the poem in relation to its sources and to related pictures of the fifties and early sixties.

(40) In his note to Rossetti's letter, Fredeman suggests that the reference to Arthur is "likely generic" (C, 1:301n); however, the phrasing of the reference may be an approximation of the first part of the title of Southey's edition, which reads: The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur, of His Noble Knyghtes of the Rounde Table....

(41) Of course, at this time he also returned in earnest to Dante as a source of subjects for pictures: the watercolor version of The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice is dated 1853, three watercolors based on the Divine Comedy (1855), and Dante's Dream at the time of the Death of Beatrice (1856).

(42) See my "Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'Inner Standing-Point' and 'Jenny' Reconstrued," University of Toronto Quarterly 80, no. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 680-717 for a discussion of point-of-view in relation to Rossetti's concept of the "inner standing-point" demanded by art (p. 337).

(43) The territory of the Stratton clan is in the lowlands of Scotland and Hutton is northwest of Berwick-on-Tweed in the area known as the Scottish Borders.

(44) That Scott's collection is likely to have been the source of materials for "Stratton Water" is indicated by a letter published in the August 18,1852 number of the Athenaeum in which he quotes several stanzas of "Clerk Saunders," a "peculiar favourite" of his that was "published in the Border Minstrelsy" (C, 1:201); and see W. M. Rossetti, "Books" for Rossetti's possession circa 1866 of the third volume of Scott's collection. Another ballad that surely lies centrally in the background of the poem is "Childe Waters," which, as Robert N. Keane succinctly explains in Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Poet as Craftsman (New York: Peter Lang, 2002), pp. 64-65 "tells of a haughty lord who casts his pregnant mistress aside to go off and marry a lady fit for his station," a situation reversed in "Stratton Water." See Virginia Surtees, The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882): A Catalogue Raisonne, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 1:6, for the pen-and-ink illustration of the two opening stanzas of "Childe Waters" that Rossetti made circa 1846. See also Robert Macfarlane's Original Copy: Plagiarism and Originality in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007) pp. 4, 10-13, and 163f. for the development in the latter part of the nineteenth century of "recombinative theories" of writing and the "poetics and politics of reclamation," especially in Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean (1885), where Flavian is engaged in a (Rossettian) "rescue programme" based on "retroactivity" that takes the form of" delv[ing] backwards in language and literature in an attempt to rejuvenate the latent meaning of dying words"--"an aesthetic of salvage, which place[s] great emphasis upon the concept of stylish reuse, and which demonstrate[s] a refined and erudite attention to the values of old words" (p. 163).

(45) In response to Rossetti's request for comments on "Stratton Water," Allingham sent him a "minute criticism" that, unfortunately, has not survived, but apparently contained negative comments "as regards abruptness, improbabilities, prosaicisms, coarseness, & other esses and isms" as well as a remark to the effect that its "dialect ... is more Scotticised than many or even the majority of genuine old ballads" (C, 1:395). Rossetti's remark that he would take Allingham's comments into account if "ever [he thought] the ballad worth working on again, without which it would certainly not be worth printing" suggests that he put it aside in 1854 and revised it heavily in 1869-70 for inclusion in Poems (1870); however, Brown's statement that on October 31, 1854 he "sat up talking to Gabriel about poetry until 2 in the morning, [and] he read ... an imitation of an old scotch Ballad which is extremely beautiful--with critique of it done by Allingham, who cuts it up very neatly & cleverly with some truth & error" indicates that he was not entirely daunted by Allingham's comments and may have continued to work on the poem after receiving them, rather than only in 1869-70 (Ford Madox Brown, Diary, ed. Virginia Surtees [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1981], 105).

(46) In August 1848, Rossetti did a pen-and-ink illustration of "Genevieve" inscribed with four lines from Coleridge's "Love" (see Surtees, 1:9).

(47) The likening of "gate of the kirkyard" to a "ferry-gate" conjures up the figure of Charon (whose duty, of course, is to conduct the souls of the dead in a boat over the rivers Styx and Acheron to the infernal regions) and hints at the tragic outcome mooted by Rossetti to Allingham. It also helps to keep the reader in suspense about what will occur.

(48) The fact that the stanzas containing references to Noah, Jonah, and St. Christopher were added to the poem in the autumn of 1869 while Poems (1870) was at the proof and trial-book stages (see C, 4:248,274; Keane, p. 68; and the section on "Stratton Water" in McGann's The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Archive, strengthens the likelihood that they contain a typological dimension that is not clearly or explicitly evident in Rossetti's work prior to 1854-55, when he commenced work on The Passover of the Holy Family in earnest and explained its typology to Coventry Patmore (see C, 2:73). Indeed, the sonnet in which he explains the picture's typological elements (pp. 186-87) was not written until 1867. For a discussion of Rossetti's use of typology in relation to the practices of his fellow Pre-Raphaelites, see my "Pre-Raphaelite Typology," University of Toronto Quarterly 78, no. 3 (Summer 2009): 821-850. Millais' The Eve of the Deluge (1850) and The Return of the Dove to the Ark (1851) may lie in the distant background of the flood/Flood partero in "Stratton Water."

(49) Nance Fyson, Decorative Glass of the 19th and 20th Centuries: A Source Book (1996; Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 2003), p. 44.

(50) [Richard Garnett], rev. of William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems in William Morris: The Critical Heritage, ed. Peter Faulkner (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 34.
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Author:Bentley, D.M.R.
Publication:Victorian Poetry
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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