D.G.Rossetti belonged to the Victorian world, but his mind was pinned down and made discontented with the growing materialism of his age. Like his romantic predecessors of the first half of the nineteenth century, he had a fine sensibility and an aesthetic intuition that tried to escape from the materialistic outlook of life, from the growing nuisance of the age of industrialism. Like his romantic predecessors, he, too, sought to escape into the medieval world from the din and rumbling of the machines of his age. Medieval faith, connections, and rituals seem to have supplied his imagination with plenty of materials to register an attempt for such an escape in his poetic realm.
The Blessed Damozal is considered one of Rossetti’s perfect poems, although written when he was only nineteen. The poem remains a specimen of his pictorial excellence, a brilliant piece of his poetical art. The painter in Rossetti is found here at his best. But this is not all of the poem, which has other aspects of interest. One such aspect is the medieval atmosphere, rather medieval religious atmosphere, with which Rossetti has enveloped the poem.
The main argument of Rossetti’s poem is human craving for love. But the setting is of the Roman Catholic concept of heaven and heavenly rewards. The heroine of the poem is a blessed damozel-a virgin who is transported to heaven by the blessing of God. His graciousness has granted her a blessed life in the celestial world as one of His choristers and this is because of her purity and piety. The entire idea of transportation to heaven for innocent and virtuous souls is based on the Catholic conception. Studied from this angle the theme of the poem has a close affinity to the medieval romance.
But this is not all. Despite the elemental human note of love, the poem contains a good deal of details which is found based on the common belief of the medieval age Rossetti’s picture of heaven, built over ‘sheer depth.’ and earth, lying far below it, is basically a sort of medieval pedantry that had its standard gradation of heaven, earth, and hell. The description of the world below, as seen by the damozel, from the rampant of Heaven, seems to have the inspiration from that very medieval conviction.
Although The Blessed Damozel represents the deep human yearning for earthly love, it is religious in a sense and seems to have the nurture of a medieval Catholic church. The very conception of Jesus, Mary, the Dove, and Aurioles shining on the heads of heavenly beings belongs exclusively to the medieval Catholic faith. Similarly, the idea of the coming of the soul to heaven after death on earth had its basis in the Catholic view of the medieval world about the spiritual reward after earthly death.
In fact, the medieval atmosphere is remarkably perceived all through Rossetti’s poem, and this is because of the very theme chosen by the poet, who himself was a Roman Catholic. The adequate representation of such a theme requires a transition to the medieval world and this is found to have been done quite admirably well by Rossetti. Nevertheless, Rossetti is no medieval poet, and the medieval environment is merely the exterior frame of his work, which breathes the passion of life and the modern urge for truth. In his representation of the cosmic arrangements, Rossetti is found to have merely conceived the medieval environment, but, at the same time, diffused his modernity. This is specifically borne out in his scientific representation of the astronomical world. In his presentation, the earth spins, like a fretful midge, around the sun and that was not shared in the opinion of the medieval world. Again, his concept of the moon and the sun are all modern, scientifically enlightened.
Of course, Rossetti’s imagination is found to dominate in the poem and actually guides the character of the poem. This imagination is mainly nurtured by his Roman Catholic notions and beliefs, mostly based on medieval concepts. But what is particularly conspicuous in his approach is the way in which scientific knowledge is balanced with medieval concepts and the poem nowhere loses its medieval character and, at the same time, retains its credibility to a modern reader.