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[For a more detailed analysis of this 140-line poem, you may wish to re-post this as a higher-level question]
"The Blessed Damozel" is classified as a Pre-Raphaelite poem which has the following characteristics:
- A Medieval emphasis upon setting, mood, word choice that corresponds to to topics that are morbid, melancholy, or emotionally moving.
- Symbolism that combines realism with an emphasis upon light/dark imagery and color; this combines with the supernatural in complex poetic structures
- Psychological states that are elaborated; great emphasis upon vowel sounds that are in the style of Edmund Spenser.
- Detailed description which leads to an emphasis upon length.
Dante Rossetti's poem is written about unrealized love, a love not attained because of the death of the lovely damsel.
The blessed damozel lean'd out
From the gold bar of Heaven; metaphor
Her eyes were deeper than the depth - emphasis upon vowel sound
Of waters still'd at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven. religious symbolism: 3, 7
significant as the number of the Holy Trinity; 7 days of Genesis, symbol of completeness 3 & 7 are mystical numbers
Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem, details, white = purity
No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift,
For servitude meetly worn;
Her hair that lay along her back
Was yellow like ripe corn. simile
In these first two stanzas, there is an extended description typical of the entire poem, which is termed ekphrasis. Also evinced here is the use of flowers which had aggrandized meaning in the Victorian era. For instance, much emphasis was placed upon the lily as symbolic of chastity, purity, virtue, faith, beauty; it also often represented the Holy Trinity.
Rosetti's poem abounds in religiosity; even the title suggests Mary, known as "The Blessed Virgin." However, the Christian imagery is juxtaposed with images of sensual physicality. For example, while other lovers are like angels "mounting up to God" (41), the damsel is all too human as she looks to earth in longing for her lover,
Out of the circling charm
Until her bosom must have made
The bar she lean'd on warm (43-45)
Unlike the others, the blessed damozel considers her heaven still on earth; for, she prays that when her lover comes to heaven, she will with the aid of "Christ the Lord" join him "as once on earth/With Love" (130-131) and live together as they once did. Then, with him, she will give herself totally to the spiritual realm.
Written in an old ballad form, Rosetti's verse illustrates the Pre-Raphaelite concern with Medievalism, but he has broken the traditional septenarian (7) lines down to six shorter lines of tetrameter that alternates with trimeter. This produces a rhyme in each stanza of the second, fourth, and sixth lines.
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