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anticipative notes obscurely struck in The Blessed Damozel, and, in his later work, makes him speak sometimes almost like a believer in mesmerism. Dream-land, as we said, with its 'phantoms of the body,' deftly coming and going on love's service, is to him, in no mere fancy or figure of speech, a real country, a veritable expansion of, or addition to, our waking life; and he did well perhaps to wait carefully upon sleep, the lack of which became mortal disease with him. One may recognise even a sort of over-hasty and morbid making ready for death itself, which increases on him; the thoughts and imageries of it coming with a frequency and importunity, in excess, one might think, of even the very saddest, quite wholesome wisdom.

And indeed the publication of his second volume of Ballads and Sonnets preceded his death by scarcely a twelvemonth. That volume bears witness to the reverse of any failure of power or falling-off from his early standard of literary perfection, in every one of his then accustomed forms of poetry-the song, the sonnet, and the ballad. The newly printed sonnets, now completing the House of Life, certainly advanced beyond those earlier ones, in clearness; his dramatic power in the ballad, was here at its height; while one monumental lyrical piece, Soothsay, testifies, more clearly even than the Nineveh of his first volume, to the reflective force, the dry reason, always at work behind his imaginative creations, which at no time dispensed with a genuine intellectual structure. For in matters of pure reflection also, Rossetti maintained the painter's sensuous clearness of conception; and this has something to do with the capacity, largely illustrated by his ballads, of telling some red-hearted story of impassioned action with effect.

Were there indeed ages, in which the external conditions of poetry such as Rossetti's were of more spontaneous growth than in our own? The archaic side of Rossetti's work, his preferences in regard to earlier poetry, connect him with those who have certainly thought so, who fancied they could have breathed more largely in the age of Chaucer, or of Ronsard, in one of those ages, in the words of Stendhal-ces siècles de passions ou les âmes pouvaient se livrer franchement à la plus haute exaltation, quand les passions qui font la possibilité comme les sujets des beaux arts existaient. We may think, perhaps, that such old time as that has never really existed except in the fancy of poets; but it was to find it, that Rossetti turned so often from modern life to the chronicle of the past. Old Scotch history, perhaps beyond any other, is

strong in the matter of heroic and vehement hatreds and love, the tragic Mary herself being but the perfect blossom of them; and it is from that history that Rossetti has taken the subjects of the two longer ballads of his second volume: of the three admirable ballads in it, The King's Tragedy (in which Rossetti has dexterously interwoven some relics of James's own exquisite early verse) reaching the highest level of dramatic success, and marking perfection, perhaps, in this kind of poetry; which, in the earlier volume, gave us, among other pieces, Troy Town, Sister Helen, and Eden Bower.

Like those earlier pieces, the ballads of the second volume bring with them the question of the poetic value of the 'refrain '—

'Eden bower's in flower:

And O the bower and the hour l'

-and the like. Two of those ballads-Troy Town and Eden Bower, are terrible in theme; and the refrain serves, perhaps, to relieve their bold aim at the sentiment of terror. In Sister Helen again, it has a real, sustained purpose (being here duly varied also) and performs the part of a chorus, as the story proceeds. Yet even in these cases, whatever its effect may be in actual recitation, it may indeed be questioned, whether, to the mere reader their actual effect is not that of a positive interruption and drawback, at least in pieces so lengthy; and Rossetti himself, it would seem, came to think so, for in the shortest of his later ballads, The White Ship-that old true history of the generosity with which a youth, worthless in life, flung himself upon death-he has contented himself with a single utterance of the refrain, 'given out' like the key-note or tune of a chant.

In The King's Tragedy, Rossetti has worked upon a motive, broadly human, in the phrase of popular criticism, such as one and all may realise. Rossetti, indeed, with all his self-concentration upon his own circle of work, by no means ignored those general interests which are external to poetry as he conceived it; as he has shown here and there, in this poetic, as also in pictorial, work. It was but that, in a life to be shorter even than the average, he found enough to occupy him in the fulfilment of a task, plainly 'given him to do.' Perhaps, if one had to name a single composition of his to a reader who desired to make acquaintance with him for the first time, it is The King's Tragedy one would selectthat poem so moving, so popularly dramatic and lifelike. Not


withstanding this, his work, it must be conceded, certainly through no narrowness or egotism, but in the faithfulness of a true workman to a vocation so emphatic, was mainly of the esoteric order. But poetry, at all times, exercises two distinct functions: it may reveal, it may unveil to every eye, the ideal aspects of common things, after Gray's way (though Gray too, it is well to remember, seemed in his own day, seemed even to Johnson, obscure) or it may actually add to the number of motives poetic and uncommon in themselves, by the imaginative creation of things, ideal from their very birth. Rossetti did something, something excellent, of the former kind; but his characteristic, his really revealing work, lay in the adding to poetry of fresh poetic material, of a new order of phenomena, in the creation of a new ideal.




The blessed damozel leaned out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
Of waters stilled at even;

She had three lilies in her hand,

And the stars in her hair were seven.

Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,

No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift
For service meetly worn;
Her hair that lay along her back
Was yellow like ripe corn.

Herseemed she scarce had been a day
One of God's choristers;

The wonder was not yet quite gone
From that still look of hers;
Albeit, to them she left, her day
Had counted as ten years.

(To one, it is ten years of years,
Yet now, and in this place,
Surely she leaned o'er me-her hair
Fell all about my face.
Nothing the autumn fall of leaves.
The whole year sets apace.)

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It was the rampart of God's house
That she was standing on;

By God built over the sheer depth
The which is Space begun;

So high, that looking downward thence
She scarce could see the sun.

It lies in Heaven, across the flood
Of ether, as a bridge.

Beneath, the tides of day and night

With flame and darkness ridge
The void, as low as where this earth
Spins like a fretful midge.

Heard hardly, some of her new friends
Amid their loving games
Spake evermore among themselves
Their virginal chaste names;
And the souls mounting up to God
Went by her like thin flames.

And still she bowed herself and stooped
Out of the circling charm;

Until her bosom must have made

The bar she leaned on warm,

And the lilies lay as if asleep

Along her bended arm.

From the fixed place of Heaven she saw
Time like a pulse shake fierce

. Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove

Within the gulf to pierce

Its path; and now she spoke as when
The stars sang in their spheres.

The sun was gone now; the curled moon
Was like a little feather

Fluttering far down the gulf; and now

She spoke through the still weather. Her voice was like the voice the stars Had when they sang together.

(Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird's song, Strove not her accents there,

Fain to be hearkened? When those bells
Possessed the mid-day air,

Strove not her steps to reach my side
Down all the echoing stair?)

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