Pre-Raphaelite Poetry: Proserpine

proserpine

As Rossetti often did, he wrote a sonnet to accompany his striking painting of Proserpine (model: Jane Morris)

Afar away the light that brings cold cheer
Unto this wall, – one instant and no more
Admitted at my distant palace-door
Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear
Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.
Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey
That chills me: and afar how far away,
The nights that shall become the days that were.

Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing
Strange ways in thought, and listenfor a sign:
And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,
O, Whose sounds mine inner sense in fain to bring,
Continually together murmuring) —
‘Woe me for thee, unhappy Proserpine’.

It is one of my favorite of Rossetti’s poem/painting combinations.  And at times when I feel in an odd or excessively introverted mood, I am reminded of his words:  “Afar from mine own self I seem”.

Rossetti had this to say about the painting:

She is represented in a gloomy corridor of her palace, with the fatal fruit in her hand. As she passes, a gleam strikes on the wall behind her from some inlet suddenly opened, and admitting for a moment the sight of the upper world; and she glances furtively towards it, immersed in thought. The incense-burner stands beside her as the attribute of a goddess. The ivy branch in the background may be taken as a symbol of clinging memory.

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