In 1848 there was a group of English artists founded by D.G. Rossetti, including William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais together organized the ‘Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood’.
The pre-Raphaelite Movement during the Victorian Era was an idealistic reaction against the didacticism, moral fervor, and pre-occupation of poets and novelists with contemporary society. Victorian poetry laid special emphasis on didacticism and the moral uplift of the people of the time.
It was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics. Originally it was not a literary but an artistic movement; because they want to bring reform in contemporary art. Rossetti was a painter and poet who both felt that contemporary paintings had become too formal, academic, and unrealistic.
Inspired by the Italian art of the 14th and 15th Centuries and their adaptation of the name The pre-Raphaelites expressed their admiration and devotion towards the Italian painting before the High Renaissance and particularly the time of Raphael.
Poetry became the medium to discuss the social, political, and spiritual problems of the people. Attacking the social evils and concern for the social reforms were the primary aims of the poets. A group of poets reacted against these tendencies. These poets attempted to outdo the romantic poets by the excess of every kind. These poets belonged to the “Spasmodic school of poetry”.
The school included J.P. Bailey, Sidney Dobell, and Alexander Smith. This school of poetry was followed by the pre-Raphaelite school of poetry.
John Ruskin appreciated this group as he said- “They imitate no pictures; they paint from nature only”.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE PRE-RAPHAELITES POETRY
- Devotion to detail
- Rich in Musically
- Excessive use of the figure of speech such as; Onomatopoeia and alliteration
- Love for Nature
The Pre-Raphaelite Movement was the movement for the regeneration of painting on the models of the early Italian painters. These Italian painters were dissatisfied with the loftiness of the conception and perfection of the technique of Raphael.
They believed in simplicity, natural grace, originality of conception, and freshness. These painters broke away from the stale traditions in a painting set up by Raphael and returned to the earlier freshness and freedom. They identified themselves to the painters before Raphael, the early Florentine e.g., Giotto and Bellini. They called themselves “Pre-Raphaelite” simply because they associated themselves with the individualities of the Italian painters before Raphael.
The development was restricted to artistic creations or paintings, yet it likewise made itself felt in English Poetry. In verse, the development came looking like a rebel against contemporary verse which was brimming with custom and commonplace issues of contemporary society.
The Pre-Raphaelite movement soon extended its bounds to include the revival of poetry. In the year 1848, a group of high-souled artists formed a group which was known as “The Pre-Raphaelite Group” or “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood”.
The original members of this group were D.G. Rossetti, his sister Christina Georgina Rossetti, Holman Hunt, and J.E. Millais. Others such as William Morris and A.C. Swinburne joined the group later.
These playwrights disliked the bitterness, ugliness, and materialism of the Victorians. They wanted to leave the world of vulgar realities of the Victorian Age and wanted to join the world of beauty, art, and loveliness.
They were highly impressed with the mysticism of the Middle Ages. Their yearning for the past and avoiding the present was also remarkable. These poets were interested in excluding conventional and self-parading ideas.
To legitimize their thoughts, the fraternity began a periodical, “The Germ”. The Pre-Raphaelites Poetry was impacted by Italian writers and Romantic artists. Saintsbury in History of Nineteenth-Century Literature stated “Pre-Raphaelite verse was a mix of Keats’ sensuousness, Shelly’s mysticism and Wordsworth’s love for nature”.
They wanted to express genuine ideas and sympathize with what is direct, serious, and heartfelt in art. The pre-Raphaelite poets were also great pictorial artists.
This movement was also supported by Oxford men. Hence, it is called the child and heir of the Oxford movement. This school of poetry is also called the “Fleshly School of Poetry” because it was marked by sensuousness and passionate feelings.
“The Fleshly School of Poetry” written by Robert Buchanan under the pseudonym Thomas Maitland was an article published in ‘The Contemporary Review Magazine’ in Oct 1871. In this article, Buchanan charged that the Pre-Raphaelite verse is filthy and verses composed by pre-Raphaelites are loaded up with immorality.
Afterward, the gathering was isolated into; ‘The Realist’ and ‘The Medievalist’. The Realist was driven by Hunt and John Millais while The Medievalist was driven by D.G. Rossetti and his devotees Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Furthermore, after that, the gathering began dissolving in 1853.
PLAYWRIGHTS OF PRE-RAPHAELITE
D.G. ROSSETTI (1828-1882)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, born in 1828, was the leader of pre-Raphaelite poetry. He was highly influenced by the romantic poets and spellbound by the supernaturalism of the medieval age. He depicted in his poems a mysterious world ruled by beauty, mystery, wonder, and love. His works are full of feminine beauty.
His famous works include “The White Ship”, “The King’s Tragedy, “The Blessed Damozel”, etc. His sister Christina Rossetti is entirely different from him. She talks of religion in her poems. She sings of renunciation. She also writes about love between husband and wife and the world of beauty and joy. Her style is simple, spontaneous, and lucid. Her famous works are “A Pageant”, “A Prince’s Progress”, etc.
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (1830-1894)
Christina Georgina Rossetti comes under the self-denying people because of her attitude towards life. One can see the repetitive occurrence of sadness and depression in her poetry, but her work is not harsh. She welcomes the sadness of life and believes in living without worrying. Her most heart-warming poems of death, sadness, and grief are “When I am dead, my dearest”, “We buried her among the flowers”, “Too late for love”, “Too late for Joy and Dreamland”.
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834–1896)
Born in 1834, Morris was a versatile genius, completed his studies at Oxford. Morris was highly influenced by the Tractarians and Rossetti. Morris published his poems and prose tales in “The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine” (1856). He was also attracted to the Middle Ages. His volume “The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems” is ample proof of this. He was a great pictorial artist. His style is easy, simple, and impressive. Some of his famous poems are “The Earthly Paradise” and “the Pilgrim of Hope”.
A.C. SWINBURNE (1837-1907)
Being the greatest poet of the Victorian Age, Swinburne was also known as a pictorial artist. He is often comparing with Shelley for his use of melody and images in poetry. His skill in the use of figures of speech particularly alliteration and onomatopoeia are remarkable. His most famous works are “Atlanta in Calydon” and “Songs Before Sunrise”.
Thus, the pre-Raphaelite Movement during the Victorian Era made remarkable contributions in the sphere of poetry. It is, however, strange that the pre-Raphaelite movement did not survive for a long period. It started becoming unreal, stilted, and artificial. Hence, this school of poetry lost its appeal and was soon faded from the memory of the successive generations.