These two sonnets, below, are inscribed beside each other on the frame of Rossetti’s The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848 – 1849, Tate):
This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
God’s Virgin. Gone is a great while, and she
Was young in Nazareth of Galilee.
Her kin she cherished with devout respect:
Her gifts were simpleness of intellect
And supreme patience. From her mother’s knee
Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;
Strong in grave peace; in duty circumspect.
So held she through her girlhood; as it were
An angel-watered lily, that near God
Grows, and is quiet. Till one dawn, at home,
She woke in her white bed, and had no fear
At all, yet wept till sunshine, and felt awed;
Because the fullness of the time was come.
These are the symbols. On that cloth of red
I’ the centre, is the Tripoint, perfect each
Except the second of its points, to teach
That Christ is not yet born. The books (whose head
Is golden Charity, as Paul hath said)
Those virtues are wherein the soul is rich:
Therefore on them the lily standeth, which
Is Innocence, being interpreted.
The seven-thorned briar and the palm seven-leaved
Are her great sorrows and her great reward.
Until the time be full, the Holy One
Abides without. She soon shall have achieved
Her perfect purity: yea, God the Lord
Shall soon vouchsafe His Son to be her Son.