Boatmen and Siren

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1853 (circa)
Subject: “A small boat is carrying a siren swiftly downstream; she has turned to look at the two men in the boat following her; the one on the right has grabbed his companion round the waist determined that he shall not follow her; the other, with arms outflung, is bent on reaching her” ( Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, I. 26.


◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, I. 26 (no. 63).

Scholarly Commentary


The small drawing treats in a rather homely fashion one of DGR's preoccupying masculinist themes: the conflict epitomized in the Keatsian “belle dame sans merci” motif. The theme underlies the pervasive dualisms of DGR's work (Eve/Lilith; Soul's Beauty/Body's Beauty; and so forth). The drawing should be compared with both The Doom of the Sirens and The Orchard Pit.


Written below the drawing are two lines mistranscribed from Jacopo da Lentino's poem “Membrando ciò che amore” (lines 31-32). DGR translated the canzone as “At the End of his Hope”, where the lines are rendered as: “The mariner forgets,/Voyaging in those straits”. The pertinence of the reference to the drawing is underscored if one recovers more of the verse: “I am broken, as a ship/ Perishing of the song/Sweet, sweet and long, the song the sirens know./ The mariner forgets,/ Voyaging in those straits,/ And dies assuredly.”

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s63.raw.xml