What makes "The Blessed Damozel," "In an Artist's Studio," and "The Defense of Guenevere" examples of Pre-Raphaelite poetry?

  • "The Blessed Damozel," Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • "In an Artist's Studio," Christina Rossetti
  • "The Defense of Guenevere," William Morris

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The dominant characteristics of Pre-Raphaelite poetry include, among others:

  1. a Medieval emphasis oin setting, mood, and vocabulary and subjects that are correspondingly morbid, melancholy or poignant;
  2. Spenserian-like emphasis on vowel sounds and elaborate psychological states and complex poetic structures;
  3. symbols that are both mysterious and tending toward the supernatural (ironically) coupled with fidelity of realism emphasizing color and light/darkness;
  4. and an emphasis on description that results in a corresponding emphasis on length.

"The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is on the subject of unrealized love broken off by the death of the blessed damozel. This subject is a melancholy and morbid one replete with detailed description, for example:

She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven.
Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift,
For service meetly worn;
Her hair that lay along her back
Was yellow like ripe corn.

These features already mark this poem as Pre-Raphaelite. The dependence on rich vowels confirms this. Consider the richness of open vowel sounds in the opening lines:

The blessed damozel leaned out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
Of waters stilled at even;

The subject of "In an Artist's Studio" is a melancholy one accompanied by Medieval allusions in the paintings in which the artist immortalizes the "One face [that] looks out from all his canvases": she appears as a queen, a girl in summer greens, a saint, an angel. Christina Rossetti makes her points through the use of reference to light and dark as she writes of "day and night," "moon and joyful ... light," "Not wan," "sorrow dim," and "hope shone bright." These features alone place this poem within the Pre-Raphaelite tradition.

"The Defence of Guenevere" by William Morris has a clear-cut Medieval subject: Guenevere of King Arthur's Camelot. Guenevere's story can be said to be both poignant and melancholy:

As though she had had there a shameful blow,
And feeling it shameful to feel ought but shame
All through her heart, yet felt her cheek burned so, ...

Her story is told through the complex use of dialogue and reveals a complex psychological state. These features, especially when added to unusual and detailed description ("The wind was ruffling up the narrow streak / Of river ..."), mark Morris's poem as Pre-Raphaelite. To explain the poems’ Pre-Raphaelite characteristics, choose more quotes that exemplify the various features that identify Pre-Raphaelite poetry as these quotations do.

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