The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

There are four versions of “The Blessed Damozel,” which was written in 1847, when Dante Gabriel Rossetti was eighteen years old. The first version was published in The Germ in 1850, the second in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1856, the third in 1870 in Rossetti’s collection Poems, the fourth in Poems, 1881. The changes appearing in the second and third versions are generally regarded as improvements.

Many years after the poem was written, Rossetti is said to have attributed it to his admiration of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1845). Rossetti is reported to have said that Poe had done the most that was possible to do with the grief of a lover on earth longing for a lover in heaven and that he (Rossetti) was determined to reverse the conditions in “The Blessed Damozel.”

Both a poet and a painter, in 1848 Rossetti, along with Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, established the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The term “Pre-Raphaelite” was first used to describe a group of German artists who early in the nineteenth century formed a brotherhood in Rome to restore Christian art to the medieval purity of the great Italian masters preceding Raphael. The German group was short-lived, and the term was later used to designate the English school founded by Rossetti and his followers. In general, the English Pre-Raphaelites reacted against the neoclassic tendencies and low standards of the art...

(The entire section is 522 words.)