Dante Rosetti and his sister Christina both frequently wrote about feelings of loss experienced by lovers separated by death. Their perceptions of this separation, however, do not exactly agree. In Dante's "The Blessed Damozel," the male narrator imagines his dead lover in heaven, looking down on him and wishing that he would join her. But in Christina's "Song," the female narrator, speaking from heaven (or some other sort of afterlife), expresses feelings of indifference towards her lost love.

In this stanza from Dante's poem, the narrator's lover is surrounded by reunited lovers, as she pines for her own.

Around her, lovers, newly met
  'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
Spoke evermore among themselves
  Their heart-remembered names;
And the souls mounting up to God
  Went by her like thin flames. ("Damozel," 37-42)

In this passage from Christina's poem, her narrator reveals the degree to which she misses her lover.

I shall not see the shadows,
  I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
  Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
  That doth not rise nor set
Haply I may remember,
  And haply may forget. ("Song," 9-16)

Questions

1. Christina's afterlife seems very non-religious, more of a limbo than anything else, while Dante's heaven is a much more elaborate affair. Why is this? Has Christina's narrator been condemned, and does her fate affect her reliability as a narrator?

2. Dante's narrator frequently interjects his description of his love's experience in heaven with parenthetical comments. Does his imposition of his own actions on his narrative suggest that his scenario is a fantasy, and does this affect his reliability as a narrator?

3. Is the difference between the two poets' perceptions of loss and love (if there is, in fact, a difference) reflective of gender issues, or is it simply a difference of opinion?


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Last modified 28 April 2003