How does "The Blessed Damozel" exemplify Pre-Raphaelite poetry?

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"The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti exemplifies the poetic characteristics of the Pre-Raphaelites in its focus on beauty, descriptive detail, symbols, supernatural elements, melancholy tone, poignancy, narrative elements, simple language, and deep emotion.

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Before we talk about Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem “The Blessed Damozel,” let's review the characteristics of Pre-Raphaelite poetry. This literary and artistic movement of the mid-1800s focused on beauty for its own sake. Poets provide a wealth of descriptive and ornamental detail in their works as well as many symbols. Pre-Raphaelite poetry often features elements of the supernatural and of melancholy or poignancy with an emphasis on the heights of the senses. Many of these poems are narrative in scope and combine simple language with deep emotion.

Now let's see how “The Blessed Damozel” exemplifies these qualities. As the poem opens, we meet the blessed damozel who is leaning down from Heaven. The poet describes this lady in great sensory detail, right down to her hair that is “yellow like ripe corn” and the “three lilies in her hand” and the seven stars in her hair. The focus here is on detail and beauty, and of course, the lilies are symbolic of the lady's purity and the stars of her otherworldly status.

The poem is filled with the supernatural, for the lady is in Heaven, yet there is certainly a tone of melancholy, for the lady's lover is not with her. She prays for him that he may join her soon, and she reflects on the wonderful things they will do when he arrives. Yet the speaker, the lady's beloved, still mourns for her and seems to doubt that he will join her any time soon as the leaves fall down around him, reminding him of her hair. He questions if God will allow them to have “endless unity” when his soul is so far from that of his lady, only matching it in terms of love for her. The speaker's cry is poignant and filled with longing.

The poem has many narrative elements as the lady goes about her life in Heaven, and its language is simple and accessible yet rich in emotion. Notice, for instance, the final stanza in which the speaker breaks into tears at the distance that exists between himself and his lady. She reaches toward him, and he hears her crying as well.

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