Compare and contrast "The Blessed Damozel" poem and painting.

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was both a talented poet and a leading Pre-Raphaelite painter. He first wrote the poem "The Blessed Damozel" in 1847, although it went through several revisions. In 1871 he was commissioned to do the painting, and by 1879 he had added the predella, the piece along the bottom showing the Damozel's earthly lover. The poem and painting share many details, but there are a few differences, as well. 

The poem refers to the Damozel leaning on the bar of heaven, and in the painting we can see she is leaning forward against a golden wall with her arms draping over the top. The poem refers to three lilies she is holding, and we see those in the painting. In describing her eyes, the poem says they "were deeper than the depth / Of waters stilled at even," and in the painting her eyes have a dreamy, faraway gaze. The background scene in the painting matches the description of "around her, lovers, newly met ... spoke evermore among themselves their heart-remembered names." In the predella, the lover lies under trees that appear to be turning color and falling, and in the poem "the autumn-fall of leaves" reminds him of her hair brushing his face. 

Despite these strong correspondences between the poem and painting, we find a few disparities. Most obviously, in the poem the Damozel's hair is "yellow like ripe corn," whereas in the painting it is red. In the poem, she wears seven stars in her hair, but in the painting only six are visible. The poem speaks of a white rose on her robe, but that is not seen in the painting. In the poem, humans who have ascended to heaven wear aureoles, but in the painting, the three angels in the foreground wear aureoles, but the resurrected people do not. 

Overall, while Rossetti did not incorporate every detail of the poem into the painting in the same way, both capture the longing that the Damozel and her lover feel for each other. 

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