Baum, Poems Ballads and Sonnets, 152
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.
The poem is constructed in figurative and hieratic terms.
Its basic structure is pictorially imagined as a paradisal landscape recollected
and elaborated out of the bible. The key image comes from the text
“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden”
Genesis 2: 10).
As in The Blessed Damozel, this
paradise is a love garden.
Here the beloved is named as the figural Love-Lily,
who is at once the principal flower of this garden and the name of
the garden's tutelary (female) deity (compare Beauty, the poem titled “One
Girl” in the 1870 Poems). Love-Lily's erotic power is such that she
emanates “A spirit” who is Love itself, figured in the second stanza
as an angel. The whole treatment is not so much allegorical, although
allegorical forms operate prominently, as ornamental and decorative.
The latter stylistic treatment forces the text to be read as a set of
reflecting or echoing signs, and tends to immobilize the sequential inertia of
the work's textuality. In short, it is distinctly
a “painter's poem”.
See also the general commentary for “Three Translations from Francois Villon, 1450”.
According to WMR the poem was composed in
). In fact the date of composition was sometime in June (see commentary for the Fitzwilliam Mansucript of the poem.
DGR's thoughts about revising the poem can be seen in his
letter to WMR of 31 August 1869, where he discusses the Penkill Proofs text, the first appearance of the work in
First printed as part of the pre-publication process
for the 1870 Poems, in the Penkill Proofs,
August 1869. Those proofs have no special organization of the poetic units. At
the next proof stage, the so-called A Proofs (Sept. 1869), this poem is placed in a loosely organized section
under the heading Sonnets and Songs, Towards a Work to be Called The House of
Life, which would in the end be the title he gave to “The House of
Life” when he published his 1870 Poems.
DGR experimented with
the order of this section until, in the final proof stage (realized at the
beginning of March, 1870) this poem and ten others were grouped as
The House of Life's integral
section of Songs. In the
1881 Poems. A New Edition,
this section is detached from The House of
Life and placed under the heading Lyrics, and two other poems are added to the
The song recalls the song that the Spirits of the Air
sing to Asia (“Life of Life”) when she
appears in the form of Venus rising from the sea
in Prometheus Unbound (Act II scene 5).
Both songs represent a vision of
Love as the total integration of spiritual and physical phenomena.
The poem's title and theme of mystic love also recalls E. T. A.
“Der Goldene Topf”,
which centers in the gnostic
figure of the Fire-Lily and the love of the student Anselmus for the
mystic snake maiden.
Finally, one notes the general stylistic allusion to medieval
stil novisti songs
of the kind that recur throughout
DGR's collection of The Early