Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) was an English poet, illustrator, and artist. He was the older brother of poet Christina Rossetti. Though a major figure in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with his painting, Rossetti considered himself more of a poet than an artist. He wrote hundreds of poems. His most substantial literary achievement was the sonnet sequence, The House of Life (1881), a complex series of poems tracing the physical and spiritual development of an intimate relationship.
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.
Sonnet XXI: Love Sweetness
Sweet dimness of her loosened hair’s downfall
About thy face; her sweet hands round thy head
In gracious fostering union garlanded;
Her tremulous smiles; her glances’ sweet recall
Of love; her murmuring sighs memorial;
Her mouth’s culled sweetness by thy kisses shed
On cheeks and neck and eyelids, and so led
Back to her mouth which answers there for all:—
What sweeter than these things, except the thing
In lacking which all these would lose their sweet:—
The confident heart’s still fervour: the swift beat
And soft subsidence of the spirit’s wing,
Then when it feels, in cloud-girt wayfaring,
The breath of kindred plumes against its feet?