Baum, Manuscripts in the Duke University Library, 10
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.
), the poem was written very early in
1847 as part of DGR's
“Songs of the Art Catholic”
project. These works were to have included poems which, located in a
contemporary setting (like “My Sister's
Sleep”), would nevertheless call back to (if not actually
call up) medieval religious cultural forms and ideas.
In this case the poem represents itself as a kind of free
translation or contemporary reconfiguration of an original Latin hymn to the
The pastiche element in works like this produce a kind of magical
aspiring to what might be termed a secular sacramentalism,
designed to re-install (not simply re-imagine) the ethos
and spiritual agency of “the Art Catholic”. These texts formed
an integral relation to DGR's early pictorial work as well, which pursued
the Art Catholic in a visual medium. At its core the project
was dominated by a preoccupation with the Virgin Mary and her secular
avatars, like Dante's Beatrice.
The poem should be compared with DGR's highly original translation of a portion of the poem from the
commonly known as “The Early Life of the Virgin Mary”, and which DGR knew as “Joachim and Anne” from an 1840 printed text.
Apparently the work was composed early in 1847 while
DGR was putting together his Songs of the Art Catholic.
There are two surviving manuscripts: the first page of a
fair copy (location: Duke
U. library) comprising lines 1-16 of the received poem; and a complete text
of the poem (location: the
Wormsley Library). Both of these texts date from 1847 and are titled “Mater Pulchrae Delectionis”.
The poem was heavily revised in 1869 when DGR was
preparing his Poems 1870 for the press. The revision was so
extensive, however, that the result was a poem (Ave)
that has to be considered a work in its own right.
The poem is all but completely organized in
First printed by WMR in the
Magazine (Dec. 1898, pages 483-484), presumably from the complete
manuscript now in the Wormsley library. Printed again in
1911 (pages 661-662).
The poem looks forward to a whole series of related Marian
paintings and drawings that DGR would execute in the late 40s and
through the 50s. These pictures include Mary
Nazarene, Mary in the House
of St. John, and The Passover in the Holy Family
(which were to form a triptych), as well as The Girlhood of Mary
Virgin, Ecce Ancilla Domini! ,
and The Annunciation.
Like all of DGR's Art Catholic materials,
whether pictorial or textual, this work is intimately related to the
mid-Victorian enthusiasm for High Church and Roman ideas and materials,
liturgical as well as doctrinal. DGR's mother and sisters were
closely involved with the Tractarian Movement and its aftermath; DGR's
involvement in these things remained aesthetic and historicist, though in those
respects his interests were simultaneously marked with serious
personal and cultural issues.
The poem is closely related to Browning's dramatic
monologues, and to Poe's efforts (in prose and poetry both) to
dramatize the imagining of alternative worlds. Its immediate model,
however, was John Keble's “The Annunciation of the
Blessed Virgin Mary”, from his