Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Dante's Dream on the Day of the Death of Beatrice: 9th of June, 1290 [Flysheet printing]
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881
Edition: 1

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Editorial Note (page ornament): Large capital T begins the text of the art notes.
Dante's Dream on the Day of the Death of Beatrice: 9th of June, 1290

  • ‘Then Love said : “Now shall all things be made clear :
  • Come and behold our lady where she lies.”
  • These ’wildering fantasies
  • Then carried me to see my lady dead.
  • Even as I there was led,
  • Her ladies with a veil were covering her
  • And with her was such very humbleness
  • That she appeared to say, I am at peace.’
Dante: ‘ Vita Nuova.’

The subject of the picture is drawn from the ‘ Vita Nuova’ of Dante, the

autobiography of his earlier life. It embodies his dream on the day of the

death of Beatrice Portinari; in which, after many portents and omens, he is led

by Love himself to the bedside of his dead lady, and sees other ladies covering

her with a veil as she lies in death. The scene is a chamber of dreams, where

Beatrice is seen lying on a couch recessed in the wall, as if just fallen back in

death. The winged and glowing figure of Love (the pilgrim Love of the Vita

, wearing the scallop-shell on his shoulder,) leads by the hand Dante, who

walks conscious but absorbed, as in sleep. In his other hand Love carries his

arrow pointed at the dreamer's heart, and with it a branch of apple-blossom, which

may figure forth the love here consummated in death,—a blossom plucked before

the coming of fruit. As he reaches the bier, Love bends for a moment over

Beatrice with the kiss which her lover has never given her; while the two dream-

ladies hold the pall full of may bloom suspended for an instant before it covers

her face for ever. These two green-clad women look fixedly on the dreamer as

if they might not speak, with saddened but not hopeless eyes.
The chamber of dreams is strewn with poppies; and on either side of the

recessed couch two open passages lead to staircases, one upward one downward.

In these staircases are seen flying two birds, of the same glowing hue as the

figure of Love,—the emblems of his presence filling the house. In these openings,

and above where the roof also lies open, bells are seen tolling for the dead; and

beyond in the distance is the outer world of reality—the City of Florence, which,

as Dante says, ‘sat solitary’ for his lady's death. Over all, the angels float up-

wards, as in his dream, ‘having a little cloud in front of them;’—a cloud to

which is given some semblance of the beatified Beatrice.

D. G. R.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Copyright: ©Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin