Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poetry is conventionally divided into three periods. The first ends in 1850, with the publication of some of his best early poems in The Germ and the beginning of his relationship with Siddal. The second ends with her death in 1862; most of the poems from this period, however, were written between 1850 and 1854. The third and last group of poems date from 1868, when Rossetti began writing again after several years of relative inactivity, until his death in 1882. Again, however, most of the poems from this period were written during its first five years.
While these three periods can be differentiated, the actual placement of individual poems is often problematic. Since Rossetti did not publish a book of original verse until 1870 and habitually revised his poetry over the years, a particular work might in fact belong to more than one period. “The Blessed Damozel,” for example, was written in 1847 and published first in The Germ in 1850; then in revised form in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine (edited by William Morris) in 1856; next, with further revision, in the 1870 Poems; and finally, revised yet again, in the 1881 Poems.
This habit of lifetime reworking and revision, which extended to certain paintings as well, evidences two characteristics of Rossetti’s work—a meticulous craftsmanship that defines the poem as a labored artifact rather than the spontaneous...
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