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Dante Gabriel Rossetti
John Ruskin
Christina Rossetti
William Morris
Algernon Charles Swinburne

A collection of quotations from the Pre-Raphaelite writers:
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Note: The Rossetti Archives  has published online the full text of most of Rossetti's works. See our Links Page.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882)


Ballads and Miscellaneous

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.
--------------------------------------
"I wish that he were come to me,
For he will come," she said.
"Have I not prayed in Heaven?--on earth, Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd?
Are not two prayers a perfect strength? And shall I feel afraid?

The Blessed Damozel (1847-1870)


This is her picture as she was:
It seems a thing to wonder on,
As though mine image in the glass
Should tarry when myself am gone.
I gaze until she seems to stir,--
Until mine eyes almost aver
That now, even now, the sweet lips part
To breathe the words of the sweet heart:--
And yet the earth is over her.

The Portrait (1847; 1869)


He answered: "If your weariness
Accepts a remedy,
I hold one and can give it you."
I gazed: "What ministers thereto,
Be sure," I said, "that I will do."

The Bride's Prelude (1848)


Lazy laughing languid Jenny,
Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea,
-------------------------------------
Poor shameful Jenny, full of grace
Thus with your head upon my knee;--
Whose person or whose purse may be
The lodestar of your reverie?

Jenny (1848 - 1869)


For my part, I but hid my face,
And held my breath, and spoke no word:
There was none spoken; but I heard
The silence for a little space.
Our mother bowed herself and wept:
And both my arms fell, and I said,
'God knows I knew that she was dead.'
And there, all white, my sister slept.

My Sister's Sleep (1848)


Could you not drink her gaze like wine?
Yet though its splendour swoon
Into the silence languidly
As a tune into a tune,
Those eyes unravel the coiled night
And know the stars at noon.

The Card-Dealer (1848-1849; 1869)


Our Lombard country-girls along the coast
Wear daggers in their garters; for they know
That they might hate another girl to death
Or meet a German lover. Such a knife
I bought her, with a hilt of horn and pearl.

A Last Confession (1849)


Fame failed me: faith failed me: and now this also, -- the hope that I nourished in this my generation of men, -- shall pass from me, and leave my feet and my hands groping. Yet because of this are my feet become slow and my hands thin. I am as one who, through the whole night, holding his way diligently, hath smitten the steel unto the flint, to lead some whom he knew darkling; who hath kept his eyes always on the sparks that himself made, lest they should fail; and who, towards dawn, turning to bid them that he had guided God speed, sees the wet grass untrodden except of his own feet.

Hand and Soul (1850)


'Sir, you are thanked. My cause is dead.
Why should you toil to break
A grave, and fall therein?' she said.
He did not pause but spake:
'For my vow's sake.'

The Staff and Scrip (1851-1852)


'You said it must melt ere vesper-bell,
Sister Helen;
If now it be molten, all is well.'
'Even so,--nay, peace! you cannot tell,
Little brother.'
(O Mother, Mary Mother,
O what is this, between Hell and Heaven?)
-------------------------------------------
But he calls for ever on your name,
Sister Helen,
And says that he melts before a flame.'
'My heart for his pleasure fared the same,
Little brother.'
(O Mother, Mary Mother,
Fire at the heart, between Hell and Heaven!)
---------------------------------------------
'See, see, the wax has dropped from its place,
Sister Helen,
And the flames are winning up apace!'
'Yet here they burn but for a space,
Little brother!'
(O Mother, Mary Mother,
Here for a space, between Hell and Heaven!)

Sister Helen (1852)


Did she in summer write it, or in spring,
Or with this wail of autumn at her ears,
Or in some winter left among old years
Scratched it through tettered cark? A certain thing
That round her heart the frost was hardening,
Not to be thawed of tears, which on this pane
Channelled the rime, perchance, in fevered rain,
For false man's sake and love's most bitter sting.

Words On the Window-Pane (For a woman's fragmentary inscription) (1853)


I have been here before.
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

Sudden Light (1854)


From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me,--
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

The Woodspurge (1856)


"O Woodman, spare that block,
Oh gash not anyhow!
It took ten days by clock,
I'd fain protect it now.
"Chorus--Wild Laughter from Dalziel's Workshop."

Address To The Dalziel Brothers (1857)


Thinking in what order I love colours, found the following:--
1. Pure light warm green.
2. Deep gold-colour.
3. Certain tints of grey.
4. Shadowy or steel blue.
5. Brown, with crimson tinge.
6. Scarlet.
Other colours (comparatively) only loveable according to the relations in which they are placed.

from his notebook (1866)


What of the end, Pandora? Was it thine,
The deed that set these fiery pinions free?

Pandora (For a Picture) (1869)


Not a drop of her blood was human,
But she was made like a soft sweet woman.
-----------------------------------------------
What bright babes had Adam and Lilith!--
(Eden bower's in flower.)
Shapes that coiled in the woods and waters,
Glittering sons and radiant daughters.

Eden Bower (1869)


Venus looked in Helen's face,
(O Troy Town!)
Knew far off an hour and place,
And fire lit from the heart's desire;
Laughed and said, 'Thy gift hath grace!'
(O Troy's down,
Tall Troy's on fire!)

Troy Town (1869)


My love I call her, and she loves me well:
But I love her as in the maelstrom's cup
The whirled stone loves the leaf inseparable
That clings to it round all the circling swell,
And that the same last eddy swallows up.

The Orchard Pit {1869)


'How should I your true love know
From another one?'
'By his cockle-hat and staff
And his sandal-shoon.'
'And what signs have told you now
That he hastens home?'
'Lo! the spring is nearly gone,
He is nearly come.'
'For a token is there nought,
Say, that he should bring?'
'He will bear a ring I gave
And another ring.'
'How may I, when he shall ask,
Tell him who lies there?'
'Nay, but leave my face unveiled
And unbound my hair.'
'Can you say to me some word
I shall say to him?'
'Say I'm looking in his eyes
Though my eyes are dim.'

An Old Song Ended (1869)


Shall Time not still endow
One hour with life, and I and she
Slake on love's lips the thirst of memory?
--------------------------------------------
But she is far away
Now; nor the hours of night grown hoar
Bring yet to me, long gazing from the door,
The wind-stirred robe of roseate grey
And rose-crown of the hour that leads the day
When we shall meet once more.

The Stream's Secret (1869-1870)


But the motive powers of art reverse the requirement of science, and demand first of all an inner standing-point. The heart of such a mystery as this must be plucked from the very world in which it beats or bleeds; and the beauty and pity, the self-questionings and all-questionings which it brings with it, can come with full force only from the mouth of one alive to its whole appeal ….

The Stealthy School of Criticism (1871)


I looked and saw your love
In the shadow of your heart
As a diver sees the pearl
In the shadow of the sea;
And I murmured, not above
My breath, but all apart, -
"Ah! you can love, true girl,
And is your love for me?"

Three Shadows (1876)


He was a Prince of lust and pride;
He showed no grace till the hour he died.
------------------------------------------
God only knows where his soul did wake,
But I saw him die for his sister's sake.

The White Ship The White Ship (Henry I. of England.--25 November 1120) (1878)


But the bird may fall from the bough of youth,
And song be turned to moan,
And Love's storm-cloud be the shadow of Hate,
When the tempest-waves of a troubled State
Are beating against a throne.
---------------------------------
For he had tamed the nobles' lust
And curbed their power and pride,
And reached out an arm to right the poor
Through Scotland far and wide;
And many a lordly wrong-doer
By the headsman's axe had died.
---------------------------------------
But Death even then took aim as he sang
With an arrow deadly bright;
And the grinning skull lurked grimly aloof,
And the wings were spread far over the roof
More dark than the winter night.
---------------------------------------
But Love was weeping outside the house,
A child in the piteous rain;
And as he watched the arrow of Death,
He wailed for his own shafts close in the sheath
That never should fly again.

The King's Tragedy (James I of Scots - 20 February 1437) (1881)


From THE HOUSE OF LIFE (final 1881 version):

O what from thee the grace, to me the prize,
And what to Love the glory,--when the whole
Of the deep stair thou tread'st to the dim shoal
And weary water of the place of sighs,
And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes
Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!

Love's Testament (1869)


When do I see thee most, beloved one?
When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
The worship of that Love through thee made known?

Lovesight (1869)


I was a child beneath her touch,--a man
When breast to breast we clung, even I and she,--
A spirit when her spirit looked through me,--
A god when all our life-breath met to fan
Our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran,
Fire within fire, desire in deity.

The Kiss (1869)


Slowly their souls swam up again, through gleams
Of watered light and dull drowned waifs of day;
Till from some wonder of new woods and streams
He woke, and wondered more: for there she lay.

Nuptial Sleep (1869?)


My lady only loves the heart of Love:

Love's Lovers (1869)


Let all men note
That in all years (O Love, thy gift is this!)
They that would look on her must come to me.

The Portrait (1847; 1869)


Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,--
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.

Silent Noon (1871)


Each hour until we meet is as a bird
That wings from far his gradual way along
The rustling covert of my soul

Winged Hours (1869)


Not in thy body is thy life at all
But in this lady's lips and hands and eyes;

Life-In-Love (1870)


O lonely night! art thou not known to me,
A thicket hung with masks of mockery
And watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?

Sleepless Dreams (1869)


I deemed thy garments, O my Hope, were gray,
So far I viewed thee. Now the space between
Is passed at length; and garmented in green
Even as in days of yore thou stand'st to-day.

Hope Overtaken (1871)


Those years, those tears are dead, but only they:--
Bless love and hope, true soul; for we are here.

Love and Hope (1871)


Thence in what ways we wandered, and how strove
To build with fire-tried vows the piteous home
Which memory haunts and whither sleep may roam,--
They only know for whom the roof of Love
Is the still-seated secret of the grove,
Nor spire may rise nor bell be heard therefrom.

Secret Parting (1869)


But a veiled woman followed, and she caught
The banner round its staff, to furl and cling,--
Then plucked a feather from the bearer's wing,
And held it to his lips that stirred it not,
And said to me, 'Behold, there is no breath:
I and this Love are one, and I am Death.'

Death-In-Love (1869)


I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
Leaning across the water, I and he;
----------------------------------------
And I was made aware of a dumb throng
That stood aloof, one form by every tree,
All mournful forms, for each was I or she,
-------------------------------------------------------
Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood,
With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning red:
----------------------------------------------------
And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey
As its grey eyes; and if it ever may
Meet mine again I know not if Love knows.

Willowwood (4-sonnet group) (1869)


And now that I have climbed and won this height,
I must tread downward through the sloping shade
And travel the bewildered tracks till night.
Yet for this hour I still may here be stayed
And see the gold air and the silver fade
And the last bird fly into the last light.

The Hill Summit (1853)


This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
Thy voice and hand shake still,--long known to thee
By flying hair and fluttering hem,--the beat
Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
How passionately and irretrievably,
In what fond flight, how many ways and days!

Soul's Beauty (1866)


Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.

Body's Beauty (Lilith) (1866)


Oh! what is this that knows the road I came, "The flame turned cloud, the cloud returned to flame, "The lifted shifted steeps and all the way?--
That draws round me at last this wind-warm space,
And in regenerate rapture turns my face
Upon the devious coverts of dismay.

The Monochord (1870)


What place so strange,--though unrevealéd snow
With unimaginable fires arise
At the earth's end,--what passion of surprise
Like frost-bound fire-girt scenes of long ago?

Memorial Thresholds (1873)


So separate hopes, which in a soul had wooed
The one same Peace, strove with each other long,
And Peace before their faces perished since:
So through that soul, in restless brotherhood,
They roam together now, and wind among
Its bye-streets, knocking at the dusty inns.

Lost On Both Sides (1854)


Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
Of that wing'd Peace which lulls the breath of sighs,--
Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.

A Superscription (1868)


Ah, Life! and must I have from thee at last
No smile to greet me and no babe but this?
Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose hair
Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath;
And Art, whose eyes were worlds by god found fair;
These o'er the book of Nature mixed their breath
With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them there:
And did these die that thou mightst bear me Death?

Newborn Death--2 (1868)


Ah! when the wan soul in that golden air
Between the scriptured petals softly blown
Peers breathless for the gift of grace unknown,
Ah! let none other alien spell soe'er
But only the one Hope's one name be there,
Not less nor more; but even that word alone.

The One Hope (1870)

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