Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sibylla Palmifera

[Click on image to enlarge] Sibylla Palmifera (1866), or "palm-bearing sibyl," was later published under the title Soul's Beauty in Rossetti's sonnet sequence The House of Life (1870). Sibyls are prophetesses; one of them, the Sibyl of Cumae, wrote her prophecies on palm leaves. The poem was composed to explicate the painting, describing the concept of beauty that Rossetti embodies in his female portraits. Rossetti seems to have gotten the idea of pairing this portrait with his painting of Lady Lilith in order to show two types of female beauty, each with its dangers and allures, after both were completed.



Under the arch of life, where love and death,
      Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw
      Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck awe,
I drew it in as simply as my breath.

Hers are the eyes which, over and beneath
      The sky and sea bend on thee, — which can draw,
      By sea or sky or woman, to one law,
The allotted bondman of her palm and wreath.

This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
      Thy voice and hand shake still, — long known to thee
            By flying hair and fluttering hem, — the beat
            Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
      How passionately and irretrievably,
In what fond flight, how many ways and days!

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