The title poem of Rossetti’s 1866 volume, “The Prince’s Progress” is her only other important narrative poem besides “Goblin Market,” and second only to that poem in length. Her first impulse in poetry was lyrical; she does not sustain narrative well, neither in fiction nor in verse. The poem began as a sixty-line lyric entitled “The Alchemist,” composed on October 11, 1861, and published in Macmillan’s magazine for May, 1863. This original poem constitutes the end (lines 481-540) of “The Prince’s Progress.” The other 480 lines represent, according to biographer Edith Birkhead, the influence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who urged his sister to tell the story implicit in the song.
The poem has a similar fairy-tale quality to “Goblin Market” and a similar metrical inventiveness that echoes the folk ballad and the nursery rhyme. The narrative portion (the first 480 lines) consists of eighty six-line stanzas rhyming aaabab. The great number of rhymes on the same sound lends a singsong quality to the verse and taxes Rossetti’s rhyming powers. There are generally four beats per line, except in the last line of each stanza, which has only three, signaling an ending.
The prince of the title is continually warned by the voices of the ladies waiting on his bride (which seem to find him magically across the miles) that she awaits his arrival, and that he must not tarry. He does, however, delayed by several...
(The entire section is 454 words.)