‘An aching pulse of melodies’: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poetic magnetism

Catherine Maxwell

in Second Sight

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780719071447
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701096 | DOI:
‘An aching pulse of melodies’: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poetic magnetism

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This chapter begins with an analysis of Rossetti's conformation in his last years to a type familiar from Bearing Blindness: that of the hypersensitive, stricken or wounded male poet, and its analogue, the mournful maiden, who manifests herself in his poetry as Proserpine, a grieving prisoner in the Underworld. However, these narcissistic types become charged with an allure or magnetism, something commonly attributed to the poet himself, his poetry and his images of women, a number of which were identified by Kermode as the origin of the Modernist ‘Romantic Image’. Although Rossetti was thought by most of the critics of his own day to be a spiritual, symbolic or mystical poet, modern critics have ignored this side of his work in favour of a concentration on ‘fleshly’ or material concerns. The second part of the chapter revisits the issue of Rossetti's spirituality by examining the symbolic image of the inspiring female, beloved in the love poetry of The House of Life (1870, 1881) as a magnetic or mesmeric figure, informed predominantly by Romantic sources. This visionary figure achieves the fusion of the spiritual and material qualities Pater saw in Rossetti's poetry by initiating and enabling spiritual communication and knowledge through the body and physical contact.

Keywords: Bearing Blindness; male poet; mournful maiden; Proserpine; spirituality; House of Life

Chapter.  21585 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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