The Blessed Damozel

Original Text: 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poems (London: Ellis and White, 1881) end R677 A155 1881 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2     From the gold bar of Heaven;
3Her eyes were deeper than the depth
4     Of waters still'd at even;
5She had three lilies in her hand,
6     And the stars in her hair were seven.
7Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
8     No wrought flowers did adorn,
9But a white rose of Mary's gift,
10     For service meetly worn;
11Her hair that lay along her back
12     Was yellow like ripe corn.
13Her seem'd she scarce had been a day
14     One of God's choristers;
15The wonder was not yet quite gone
16     From that still look of hers;
17Albeit, to them she left, her day
18     Had counted as ten years.
19(To one, it is ten years of years.
20     . . . Yet now, and in this place,
21Surely she lean'd o'er me--her hair
22     Fell all about my face ....
23Nothing: the autumn-fall of leaves.
24     The whole year sets apace.)
25It was the rampart of God's house
26     That she was standing on;
27By God built over the sheer depth
28     The which is Space begun;
29So high, that looking downward thence
30     She scarce could see the sun.
31It lies in Heaven, across the flood
32     Of ether, as a bridge.
33Beneath, the tides of day and night
34     With flame and darkness ridge
35The void, as low as where this earth
36     Spins like a fretful midge.
37Around her, lovers, newly met
38     'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
39Spoke evermore among themselves
40     Their heart-remember'd names;
41And the souls mounting up to God
42     Went by her like thin flames.
43And still she bow'd herself and stoop'd
44     Out of the circling charm;
45Until her bosom must have made
46     The bar she lean'd on warm,
47And the lilies lay as if asleep
48     Along her bended arm.
49From the fix'd place of Heaven she saw
50     Time like a pulse shake fierce
51Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
52     Within the gulf to pierce
53Its path; and now she spoke as when
55The sun was gone now; the curl'd moon
56     Was like a little feather
57Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
58     She spoke through the still weather.
59Her voice was like the voice the stars
60        Had when they sang together.
61(Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird's song,
62     Strove not her accents there,
63Fain to be hearken'd? When those bells
64     Possess'd the mid-day air,
65Strove not her steps to reach my side
66     Down all the echoing stair?)
67"I wish that he were come to me,
68     For he will come," she said.
69"Have I not pray'd in Heaven?--on earth,
70     Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd?
71Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
72     And shall I feel afraid?
73"When round his head the aureole clings,
74     And he is cloth'd in white,
75I'll take his hand and go with him
76     To the deep wells of light;
77As unto a stream we will step down,
78     And bathe there in God's sight.
79"We two will stand beside that shrine,
80     Occult, withheld, untrod,
81Whose lamps are stirr'd continually
82     With prayer sent up to God;
83And see our old prayers, granted, melt
84     Each like a little cloud.
85"We two will lie i' the shadow of
87Within whose secret growth the Dove
89While every leaf that His plumes touch
90     Saith His Name audibly.
91"And I myself will teach to him,
92     I myself, lying so,
93The songs I sing here; which his voice
94     Shall pause in, hush'd and slow,
95And find some knowledge at each pause,
96     Or some new thing to know."
97(Alas! We two, we two, thou say'st!
98     Yea, one wast thou with me
99That once of old. But shall God lift
100     To endless unity
101The soul whose likeness with thy soul
102     Was but its love for thee?)
103"We two," she said, "will seek the groves
104     Where the lady Mary is,
105With her five handmaidens, whose names
106     Are five sweet symphonies,
108     Margaret and Rosalys.
109"Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
110     And foreheads garlanded;
111Into the fine cloth white like flame
112     Weaving the golden thread,
113To fashion the birth-robes for them
114     Who are just born, being dead.
115"He shall fear, haply, and be dumb:
116     Then will I lay my cheek
117To his, and tell about our love,
118     Not once abash'd or weak:
119And the dear Mother will approve
120     My pride, and let me speak.
121"Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
122     To Him round whom all souls
123Kneel, the clear-rang'd unnumber'd heads
124     Bow'd with their aureoles:
125And angels meeting us shall sing
126     To their citherns and citoles.
127"There will I ask of Christ the Lord
128     Thus much for him and me:--
129Only to live as once on earth
130     With Love,--only to be,
131As then awhile, for ever now
132     Together, I and he."
133She gaz'd and listen'd and then said,
134     Less sad of speech than mild,--
135"All this is when he comes." She ceas'd.
136     The light thrill'd towards her, fill'd
137With angels in strong level flight.
138     Her eyes pray'd, and she smil'd.
139(I saw her smile.) But soon their path
140     Was vague in distant spheres:
141And then she cast her arms along
142     The golden barriers,
143And laid her face between her hands,
144     And wept. (I heard her tears.)

Notes

1] The poem was revised for publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1856, and again before its appearance in Poems, 1870. Thirty years after its first appearance Rossetti told Hall Caine that he had written "The Blessed Damozel" as a sequel to Poe's "The Raven" (published in 1845): "I saw that Poe had done the utmost it was possible to do with the grief of the lover on earth, and so determined to reverse the conditions, and give utterance to the yearning of the loved one in heaven." Rossetti's early study of Dante, especially the Paradiso, has influenced the general conception and many of the details of the poem. Back to Line
54] Rossetti probably had in mmd both the Pythagorean concept of the music of the spheres and the reference in Job 38:7 to the singing of the morning stars on the day of creation. Back to Line
86] That living mystic tree. Cf. Revelations 22: 2: "... the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Back to Line
88] the Dove: the Holy Spirit. Back to Line
107] The five saints were chosen for their musical names rather than for any special significance as attendants on the Virgin Mary. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1850
Publication Notes: 
The Germ (Feb. 1850)
RPO poem Editors: 
Margaret Frances (Sister St. Francis) Nims
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.263
Rhyme: