‘The very sky and sea-line of her soul’: Nature, Destruction, and Desire in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Poems

Trowbridge, Serena (2020) ‘The very sky and sea-line of her soul’: Nature, Destruction, and Desire in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Poems. Victoriographies, 10 (1). pp. 71-89. ISSN 2044-2416

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When critics write of ‘truth to nature’ in Pre-Raphaelite poetry and painting, they rarely refer specifically to Rossetti. While his paintings situate women in medievalised environments saturated with floral imagery, nature itself seems relegated to an aesthetic function. This trope seems to be continued in his ballads in Poems, where the natural world is allied to the female figure and can be read as directly relating to the beauty of the woman. This essay will argue for a more complex and nuanced relationship between the poet and his poetic figures.

Rossetti wrote of his concern that his poems should be free of ‘painter's tendencies’ (Fredeman IV: 413), and though the parallels between his paintings and his poems have been explored thoroughly, I shall argue that there is a disjunction when it comes to the depiction of the natural world, which serves a different, less aesthetic, and more intricate function in many of the poems. This approach is best traced in ‘The House of Life’ sonnets, where the relationship between the speaker's emotions, depicted through a series of environmental metaphors, and the concepts with which he struggles is one which can be unpicked by exploring his changing approach to nature.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.3366/vic.2020.0367
16 September 2019Accepted
1 March 2020Published Online
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-01 - English studies (non-specific)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > School of English
Depositing User: Serena Trowbridge
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2020 09:49
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:26
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8693

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