Goatview Farm - The Saint Report

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April 9
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

what Rossetti believed. Dante Gabriel Rossetti died April 9, 1882, at the age of 53. This wasn't Inferno Dante...this was the English poet and painter. The poem I was most familiar with was "The Blessed Damozel,"about a really good girl who goes to heaven and spends all her time there waiting for her lover to join her but when he dies, he goes elsewhere and she is left to spend an eternity in heaven without him. I don't know what Rossetti's point was. Virtue is its own (and only) reward? From his conduct, I am pretty sure that was

Elizabeth Siddal as Ophelia
Pencil study of Lizzy by John Everett Millais for the painting "Ophelia."

Rossetti married the "sumptuous," but tubercular, Elizabeth Siddal in 1860. (The quotes are from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.) She was called Lizzy by her friends, though the name "ill suited her tragic temperament and ominous beauty." Elizabeth was an extremely popular artists' model of the time, specializing in pale and wan.

The Rossetti marriage was not a happy one due to Elizabeth's declining health and Dante's infidelities. Two years after the wedding, Dante came home to find his wife dying of an overdose of laudanum, perhaps deliberate.

In "remorse for having so frequently betrayed her," or maybe just because other people were looking, as Lizzy's body lay in state, Dante put his most recent unpublished volume of love poems in her casket and the manuscript went with her to her grave in London's Highgate Cemetery.

Whatever precipitated the gesture, seven years after her death Dante Rossetti's popularity was lagging and his publisher insisted that he retrieve those lost poems. The job was done at midnight by bonfire light. Dante didn't want to watch, but those present stated that when the coffin was opened, Elizabeth Siddal Rossetti lay as a woman asleep, unchanged except that her originally long hair had grown to fill the coffin. Shudder.

A medical doctor disinfected the volume and it was delivered to the publisher. After all that hoopla, the poems were not very good and didn't do the trick anyway, but is that a great story or what?

Ophelia, featuring Elizabeth Siddal
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Saints of the day are Madrun, Uramar, Hugh of Rouen, Gaucherius, Marcellus, Acacius, Bademus, Mary of Cleophas, Waldetrudis, and Casilda (invoked against bad luck).

Birthdays include Paul Robeson and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

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© Marilyn Jones 2002-2008