Between the hands, between the brows,
Between the lips of Love-Lily,
A spirit is born whose birth endows
My blood with fire to burn through me;
Who breathes upon my gazing eyes,
Who laughs and murmurs in mine ear,
At whose least touch my colour flies,
And whom my life grows faint to hear.

Within the voice, within the heart,
Within the mind of Love-Lily,
A spirit is born who lifts apart
His tremulous wings and looks at me;
Who on my mouth his finger lays,
And shows, while whispering lutes confer,
That Eden of Love’s watered ways
Whose winds and spirits worship her.

Brows, hands, and lips, heart, mind, and voice,
Kisses and words of Love-Lily,—
Oh! bid me with your joy rejoice
Till riotous longing rest in me!
Ah! let not hope be still distraught,
But find in her its gracious goal,
Whose speech Truth knows not from her thought
Nor Love her body from her soul.

Written in June 1869. Rhyming pattern is abababa (Iambic tetrameter)

Rossetti declared: ‘Are not my works testament to my Christianity?’ In poems such as The Blessed Damozel (see previous blog post) and Love Lily we have crucial evidence of the complex Christian beliefs which Rossetti possessed.

His religious beliefs, a mix of Anglican and Catholic from the moment of his birth, are often difficult to pin down. However, one crucial factor of his engagement is the sense of love. Divine, sacramental love. The visual presentation of this love flows throughout his art, and changes shape; Rossetti uses music, as a metaphor for love, he creates endless images of the venerated woman (from the Madonna to the mythical Proserpine to the earthly Jane Morris), and in his early works he seeks out the angelic body as a form of divine love.

Conjugal union is a crucial theme in Rossetti’s Christian offerings. As is the material and immaterial body with which such sacramental love can be experienced (see Beata Beatrix for example).

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ‘Beata Beatrix’ c.1864-70

Rossetti, Beata Beatrix (1864-1870, Tate, London)

Love Lily is constructed in figurative and hieratic terms. Its basic structure is pictorially imagined as a paradisal landscape recollected and elaborated out of the bible.*

(Genesis 2: 10) And a river went out of Eden to water the garden

The role of paradise, the garden of Eden, is manifested in ‘Love-Lily’ who emanates Love as an angel (see the second stanza). The premise of sacramental love, revelation, immaterial female deities is present and yet diffuse within the angelic body (a historically male figure).


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