Christina Rossetti's "Song" was composed on February 6, 1849 and
first appeared in _The Germ_. It was later included in:
_Goblin Market and Other Poems_ (1st edition, London: Macmillan's,
_Goblin Market and Other Poems_ (2nd edition, typesetting errors
corrected, London: Macmillan's, 1865)
_Poems_ (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1866)
_Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress, and Other Poems_, (Revised
by Christina and completely reset, London: Macmillan's, 1875)
_Poems_ (Reprint with corrections of 1866 edition, Boston: Roberts
_Poems_ (Revised reprint of 1872 edition, Boston: Roberts Brothers,
The notebook manuscript is located in the Bodleian Library and
contains several notable differences from the published version.
In the manuscript, the title of the poem is "A Song in a Song," and
it contains three stanzas prior to the two that comprise the
They told me that she would not live,
But how could I believe their word?
Her cheeks were redder than a rose,
And smoother than a curd.
Her eyes were full of a deep light,
Steady, unmoved by hope and fear:
And though indeed her voice was low,
It was so sweet and clear.
But now that she is gone before,
I trust I too shall follow fast:
And so I sit and sing her song,
And muse upon the past.
The kind of frustration and longing for death detectable in
"Song" can also be seen in "Have Patience," written only two weeks
earlier, on January 23, 1849.
Christina Rossetti's "Song" has been commended for its
tightness and maturity, and has been frequently anthologized.
Three other songs appear in _Goblin Market and Other Poems_; one
begins "Two doves upon the selfsame branch," the second begins "SHE sat and sang
alway," and the third begins "WHEN I am dead, my
Return to the poem.
"Morning Sleep," a long, descriptive blank verse poem, was
William Bell Scott's first submission to the _Germ_. It was later
published in his volume of collected poems entitled _Poems by
William Bell Scott: Ballads, Studies from Nature, Sonnets, Etc._.
(London, 1875). Neither this nor his other contribution, "Sonnet"
(see No. 1), is mentioned in his two volume _Autobiographical
Return to poem.
Calder Campbell's "Sonnet" is his only poem which appears in any
number of _The Germ_, and it does not appear again in any other
publication. The proofs of the sonnet were corrected on January
25, 1850, just 6 days before the number's appearance.
Return to the poem
Stars and Moon
"Stars and Moon" is the second of two poems Patmore submitted
to "The Germ." This lyric in dialogue was not only unsigned, but
was never claimed by Patmore. It was never published again in any
later volume, although Patmore's biographer Basil Champneys
declared it "eminently characteristic of the poet's thought"
(_Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patmore_. Vol. 1.
London: George Bell and Sons, 1900. p.86.).
"Stars and Moon" looks forward to Patmore's most noted
achievement, _The Angel in the House_, both in theme and in style.
The meter of each is the rhymed octosyllabic quatrain, which
Patmore himself described as "a gay and jocund measure, eminently
adapted to a story of successful love and happy marriage"
(Champneys 161). In an 1890 letter, he called this meter "modest
and unpretentious"--feeling it necessary to defend himself against
attacks in the _Athenaeum_ (December 1890) calling his poetry in
"The Angel in the House" and the "Victories of Love" "garrulous"
and "prattling." His choice of metrics was intentionally simple,
a choice which Champneys admits may have lain him open to ridicule
and parody. Patmore replied to Champneys with the words of Byron:
"Easy reading was often damned hard writing."
In 1847, Patmore married Emily Andrews, who became the subject
of _The Angel in the House_--a work which celebrated her
personality and his love for her. By the time of his involvement
with the P.R.B. he was already beginning thought and work on that
poem, the first part of which he was to finish several years later
in only six weeks. "Stars and Moon" reveals an early working
through of what was to him a very serious question throughout his
career: the relation between innocence and passion, even within
Return to the poem
On the Mechanism of a Historical Picture
Ford Madox Brown wrote this article with the intention of publishing a
sequel, which would address the problem of choosing a subject. This
sequel was never written. "I know nothing further of it," William
Michael Rossetti wrote; "Pity that the opportunity of printing it did not
occur" (_Preraphaelite Diaries and Letters_, 261).
In his preface to the 1901 Stock edition of "The Germ," W. M. Rossetti
remarks, "It is by this time a well-recognized fact that Brown was one of
the men in England, or indeed in Europe, most capable of painting a
historical picture, and it is a matter of regret that "The Germ" came to
an end before he had an opportunity of continuing and completing this
serviceable compendium of precepts. He had studied art in continental
schools; but I do not think he imported into his article much of what he
had been taught,--rather what he had thought out for himself, and had
begun putting into practice" (Preface to "The Germ," 21-2).
Lucy Rabin explains that "The ideas expressed in the article...were a
continuing syllabus of [Brown's] method of work. Many years later his
last pupil, Harold Rathbone, confirmed his life-long adherence to the
rules and methods set down in "The Germ" in 1850, saying, 'His advice to
me as a pupil was precisely that contained in his early article
in "The Germ".' " (Rabin, _Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite History
Ford Madox Brown's particular interest in the historical picture set him
apart from the other major painters of the movement. Rabin discusses
Brown\325s predilection for historical painting: "From the outset of his
career Brown preferred subjects of history, mainly English history, and
as he showed by his choice of poetic and historical sources, he was drawn
to emotionally charged dramatic events from the past. At the start he
saw history as the truthful record of human interaction in a momentary
event, and everything he did thereafter was designed to accentuate the
momentary character of the representation. His clear artistic purpose
was to define specific human personality, exact physical setting, and a
particular psychological mood. As he took the trouble to explain, his
zeal to show authentic costume was a result of his intention to locate
his historical figures in their time. His eclecticism was selective and
varied, based on an order of truth he perceived in the borrowed motif,
verified by study from life and nature. He transformed his motifs into
compressed linear images; his flat drawing froze his figures into tense
dis-equilibrium; and the effect was one of marked compositional
distortion. His significant new discoveries, real light and authentic
landscape, he used for the purpose of fixing particular time of day or
night in his rendering of the historical event. His eccentric gestures,
strange faces, and totally exaggerated figural attitudes increased the
sensation of an interrupted moment in time. Brown was attempting to
represent history as if he (and the viewer) were witness to the event itself." (_Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite History Picture_)
Return to the essay.
Christina Rossetti wrote "A Testimony" on august 31, 1849. Its first
appearance was in The Germ, followed by appearances in:
Goblin Market and Other Poems (1st edition, London:
Goblin Market and Other Poems (2nd edition, typesetting errors
corrected, London: Macmillan's, 1865)
The Prince's Progress and Other Poems (1st edition, London:
Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress, and Other Poems (revised
by Christina and completely reset, London: Macmillan's, 1875)
Poems (revised reprint of 1872 edition, Boston: Roberts
The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti (London:
The notebook manuscript is written in the handwriting of Christina
Rossetti's sister, Maria Francesca Rossetti, and located in the
Return to the poem.
O When and Where
Woolner wrote this song in May, 1849.
Return to the song.
Fancies at Leisure
Along with Patmore's "Moon and Stars," three of these four poems by
William Michael Rossetti ("Noon-rest," "A Quiet Place," and "A Fall of
Rain") were delivered to Tupper for the original proofs as a replacement
for Cave Thomas's aborted article on 'Nature'. W. M. Rossetti decided to
include these in the second issue of "The Germ" in place of his
blank-verse poem, "The Castle." In preparing the original three poems
for "Germ" publication, W. M. Rossetti wrote three more, also to be
included among the "Fancies at Leisure:" "In Spring," "In Summer," and
"Sheer Waste" (originally "The Far Niente"). "Sheer Waste" was included
with the first three in the second issue, while "In Summer" and "In
Spring" were reserved for the third issue of the magazine.
W. M. Rossetti describes the second issue "Fancies at Leisure" as
follows: "The first three of these were written to bouts-rimes. As to
No. 1, "Noon Rest," I have a tolerably clear recollection that the rhymes
were prescribed to me by Millais, on one of the days in 1849 when I was
sitting to him for the head of Lorenzo in his first Preraphaelite picture
from Keats's "Isabella." No. 4, "Sheer Waste," was not a bouts-rimes
performance. It was chiefly the outcome of an early afternoon spent
lazily in Regent's Park.
Return to the poem.
The Sight Beyond
The title of this group of sonnets is changed to "The Light Beyond" in the
1901 Elliot Stock edition of The Germ, and W. M. Rossetti refers to
it by that name in the accompanying introduction.
In his P. R. B. Journal, W. M. Rossetti first describes the work on
January 26, 1850 as "3 sonnets of Deverell's" (p. 46) and only mentions the
title "The Sight Beyond," in his entry for January 31, the day of the
publication of The Germ's second number.
No publications of "The Sight Beyond" other than in The Germ are
known to the writer of this account.
Return to the poem.
The Blessed Damozel
"The Blessed Damozel" is certainly the most celebrated work which
appears in The Germ, but it is also Rossetti's most famous poem. In
the chapter on Rossetti in his Appreciations, Walter Pater treats
"The Blessed Damozel" as a representative work both of Rossetti's work and
of the Pre-Raphaelites as a group. He emphasizes "sincerity" as the
central characteristic of the poem, the poet, and the movement:
"...[T]he reader...may observe already, in The Blessed Damozel,
written at the age of eighteen, a prefigurement of the chief
characteristics of that school, [of Pre-Raphaelitism] as he will recognize
in it also, in proportion as he really knows Rossetti, many of the
characteristics which are most markedly personal and his own. Common to
that school and to him, and in both alike of primary significance, was the
quality of sincerity already felt as one of the charms of that earliest
poem-a perfect sincerity, taking effect in the deliberate use of the most
direct and unconventional experssion, for the conveyance of a poetic sense
which recognised no conventional standard of what poetry was called upon to
be. At a time when poetic originality in England might seem to have had
its utmost play, here was certainly one new poet more, with a structure and
music of verse, a vocabulary an accent, unmistakably novel, yet felt to be
no more tricks of manner adopted with a view to forcing attention-an accent
which might rather count as the very seal of reality on one man's own
proper speech; as that speech itself was the wholly natural expression of
certain wonderful things he really felt and saw. Here was one, who had a
matter to present to his readers, to himself at least, in the first
instance, so valuable, so real and definite, that his primary aim, as
regards form or expression in his verse, would be but its exact equivalence
to those data within.
Pater goes on to comment on the relation between Rossetti and
Dante, which he says consists in Rossetti's "definiteness of sensible
imagery, which seemed almost grotesque to some, and was strange, above all,
in a theme so profoundly visionary" as that of "The Blessed Damozel."
Later in his life, Rossetti commented on "The Blessed Damozel" to a
friend, relating it to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven":
"I saw that Poe had done the utmost it was possible to do with the grief of
the lover on earth, and so I determined to reverse the conditions, and give
utterance to the yearning of the loved one in Heaven."
(quoted in F. S. Boas, Rossetti & His Poetry. (London: George G.
Harrap & Company, 1914), p. 28)
D. G. Rossetti is obsessive in his rewriting of much of his poetry,
and "The Blessed Damozel" provides a particluarly interesting example. The
earliest version of the poem was written for the Rossetti family magazine
Hotch Potch. (Dante Gabriel Rossetti Family Letters, p.
293.) At the time, Rossetti was no older than nineteen. There are three
distinct published versions of the poem, those printed in The Germ,
The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, and the 1870 Poems. The
linguistic event of "The Blessed Damozel" thus extends through over a
quarter of a century of revision and republication. Moreover, it is
complicated by Rossetti's painting of the same name, executed between 1871
and 1879. (Click here to go to the Rossetti Archive, which has an image of
the painting and other related materials.)
In The P.R.B. Journal, William Michael Rossetti records that
a crisis in the organization of the second number of The Germ
occurred on Wednesday, January 23, 1850, only eight days before the
publication date. William Michael Rossetti discovered, "by calling on him"
that William Cave Thomas, who had committed to write an essay for the
magazine, would not have it ready. The gap left by this essay would be
filled, writes William Michael, by "what we have by us," which included
"The Blessed Damozel".
On January 25, William Michael writes that "Gabriel finished up his
'Blessed Damozel', to which he added 2 stanzas." But then on each of the
twenty-sixth and the twenty-eighth, Gabriel adds another stanza to the
poem. The result is the version we have in The Germ.
A thorough account of the textual history and revisions of the poem is
available in Paull Franklin Baum's The Blessed Damozel, (Chapel
Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1937).
In addition, Jerome J. McGann's Rossetti Archive provides images of the
various versions of the poem and is a useful resource for textual matters.
Return to poem.
The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems. By A.-Fellowes.
This is the second of William Michael's review series, one essay of
which appears in each number of The Germ. The following entry from
his The P. R. B. Journal indicates that he does in fact consider the
four reviews as a series. It also gives insight into the composition of
"The opening of the notice I wrote of The Strayed Reveller etc. is
transferred to the other, [i.e. the other review, of Clough's The Bothie
of Toper-na-fuosich in The Germ, Number 1] it being of a
general character and consequently required in the first of the review
To put W. M. Rossetti's review in context, it is useful to consider
two others, those of Charles Kingsley (in the May 1849 issue of Fraser's
Magazine.) and of W. E. Aytoun (in the September 1849 issue of
Blackwood's Magazine. Both of these, along with William Michael's
can be found reprinted in Carl Dawson, ed. Matthew Arnold: the Poetry.
The Critical Heritage. (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973).
Kingsley's (unsigned) review, in the May 1849 issue of Fraser's Magazine.!
Kingsley's religious and social agendas pervade his review. His
praise for the volume is that "It is evidently the work of a scholar, a
gentleman, and a true poet." His complaints are that it serves no
educative purpose. "When we have read all he has to say, what has he
taught us?" Generally, he complains that A's poetry is irresponsible and
seeks to avoid involvement in issues of contemporary life. "...here is a
man to whom God has given rare faculties and advantages. Let him be
assured that he was meant to use them for God."
William Edmonstone Aytoun's (unsigned) review in the September 1849 issue
of Blackwood's Magazine.
Aytoun writes that "One of the most painful features of our recent
poetical literature, is the marked absence of anything like heartiness,
happiness, or hope." He classes the poems of The Strayed Reveller
in a broad category of "excessively unmirthful monologues". Aytoun also
shares with Kingsley a concern with "what sort of companion the
author...must be", though Aytoun seems to want to find in him a potential
drinking companion rather than a fellow Christian social activist as
In his criticism of the poems themselves, Aytoun accuses the poet
of both imitation and incoherence. In particular, he calls "The New
Sirens" an "exact transcript from Mrs. Browning" in "sound and mannerism,"
but says that it is devoid of meaning. He also senses a Tennysonian
influence in many of the poems. Aytoun's general verdict is that "in spite
of imitation, and a taste which has gone far astray, this writer has
powers, which, if properly directed and developed, might insure him a
sympathy, which for the present, must be withheld."
William Michael records in his The P. R. B. Journal on
September 13, 1849 that he has read this review:
"I procured this month's Blackwood, which contains a notice of
The Strayed Reveller, and find, to my delight, that the review is,taken on the whole, highly condemnatory, instead of being, as I expected it
would be, approving."
In contrast to Kingsley's and Aytoun's responses, Dawson calls
Rossetti's piece "[t]he most astute of the early reviews" and "the first
truly sensitive appreciation" of Arnold's volume. Compared to Kinglsey's
and Aytoun's articles, Rossetti's is "more exclusively aesthetic...and much
William Michael had already finished one version of the review by
11 September 1849 when he records in The P. R. B. Journal that he
read it to Collinson. However, as indicated above, he transferred the
introduction of the piece to his review of Clough, and the Arnold essay
reached its final form only after the publication of Germ Number 1.
On January 6, William Michael writes in The P. R. B. Journal that
he began to consider "a few introductory remarks to replace those now
transferred" to the Clough review; and on January 9, he "completed the
introductory addition." However, he then found that his desire to give
extensive extracts from the poems led the piece to be too long for
publication: "...I find, on reckoning it up, that it will occupy about 14
pages, which is more space than can possibly be allotted to it. I have
therefore had to cut about 130 lines of extract." However, even in its
final form in The Germ, the review gives a remarkable number of
lines of Arnold's verse. This is one of the striking differences between
Rossetti's review and other early responses to the poem, and it indicates
the depty of his appreciation of "A's" poetry.
No publications of this review other than in The Germ are known to
the writer of this account.
Return to the Review.