Ulalume

As I mentioned in Rossetti and the art of death, Edgar Allan Poe was a great influence on DGR’s work. The Raven is a prime example of Poe’s poetry influencing Rossetti’s.  It was a catalyst for The Blessed Damozel, where Rossetti reversed the conditions of The Raven in order to tell the story from the deceased lover’s point of view. (See my post Who is the Blessed Damozel?)

“Poe is a key figure in the development of DGR’s literary style as well. The second-order romanticism developed in Poe’s imaginative writings, and explicated in essays like “The Poetic Principle” and “The Philosophy of Composition”, is recapitulated in DGR’s work, where the key is primarily Dantean rather than (as in Poe) Shelleyan/Byronic.”–RossettiArchive.com

Here is Rossetti’s illustration for Poe’s poem Ulalume, drawn circa 1848:

'Ulalume', Dante Gabriel Rossetti. See The Rossetti Archive

‘Ulalume’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. See The Rossetti Archive

Rossetti and Poe were masters at blending melancholy with beauty, each with their own particular flair.  Rossetti’s illustration of Ulalume shows a poet walking through a ‘ghost-haunted woodland’.  The winged figure represents his Psyche.  He walks and talks with his Psyche on a seemingly aimless journey. Eventually he happens upon the tomb of his dead love Ulalume, leading us to believe that their stroll was not so happenstance after all.  He has unconsciously visited her grave, not realizing that it was the first year anniversary of her death. It seems uncanny that Rossetti and Poe both famously explored the subject of deceased love.  Poe lost his wife Virginia prior to the writing of Ulalume, while Rossetti would lose his wife in 1862. several years after writing The Blessed Damozel

Other Rossetti illustrations of Poe works include The Raven and The Sleeper:

'The Raven', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

‘The Raven’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

'The Sleeper', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

‘The Sleeper’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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