Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.
This work is DGR's most elaborated treatment of one of his central symbolic
preoccupations: the figura of the siren or
la belle dame sans merci. Like Keats, DGR is completely sympathetic to the
ambiguous valence of this femme fatale. Unlike Keats, his work is a lifelong
exploration of the complex social and cultural significance of the figure, as one sees very
clearly in this remarkable work. Its filiations are literal and direct, as one can see by
reading it in relation to works like
Boatmen and Siren,
“For the Wine of Circe”,
“A Sea-Spell”, and
“The Question”; it
develops obvious mutations in
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and
The Card Dealer.
The opening paragraph of the work makes such a clear reference of Hunt's early painting
A Converted British Family Sheltering a
Christian Priest from the Persecution of the Druids that the work can scarcely not be
read as an imaginative interpretation of Hunt's painting.
Like “The Orchard Pit”,
this is an impressive imaginative conception, and it is unfortunate that DGR never
executed either work beyond the prose sketches her made. In each case, however,
what we have is sufficiently detailed to give a clear sense of the imaginative power
of his thought.
A prose cartoon for the work was drafted in 1869 in preparation for the
unexecuted poetical work—a dramatic lyric based on
events detailed in the cartoon. One of the notebooks at Duke University has a brief fragment describing how scene I was to begin. The brief lyric
Tomaæ Fides was to
have been part of this poem.
The work was first printed posthumously by WMR in volume I of his 1886 collected edition, and it was collected thereafter. WMR used the Duke manuscript as his copy text but he altered it in notable ways.