Pre-Raphaelites in The City: In An Artist’s Studio: Poetry Analysis

Dinah Roe

In An Artist’s Studio: Poetry Analysis Poetry Workshop: The Poem

When I was a university freshman (long ago, when mastodons bellowed to each other across primeval swamps), a professor of mine once remarked that people are often afraid of poetry because they haven’t really been taught how to read it. This makes sense to me; unlike the Victorians, we are not bombarded with popular periodicals and annuals containing classic and contemporary poems. We are not taught to recite poetry at school, and rarely do we read it in any great depth. But I don’t want people to be scared of poetry anymore. I want people to love it! And if they can’t love it, then at least I want folks to be able to face it down.

So in order to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, I’m going to experiment with a ‘Poetry Workshop’, in which I will closely analyse a Pre-Raphaelite poem.

A poem will be posted, and then we will turn our attention to literary technique, historical context, and anything else that strikes my fancy. This will be very similar to what I do in the classroom, but it will be available to everyone in the (relatively) democratic space that is the internet. You’ll be getting professional, university level advice on how to read a poem. In return, I hope you’ll leave plenty of comments telling me what you find most helpful, what you’d like more of, and whether you agree or disagree with my interpretation. Passionate opinions are positively encouraged here!

In honour of Christina Rossetti’s upcoming birthday on 5th December, the inaugural poem will be one of my favourites: ‘In An Artist’s Studio’.

I haven’t posted the analysis yet because I want you to take your time just READING the poem and thinking about it. Fight the impulse to tear anxiously through the poem; this is not a race. Poetry requires slow reading, savouring and chewing over in order for you to receive its full benefits. Think of a poem as a three course meal rather than a Power Bar. 

Please visit again for the analysis, which will be posted soon.

In An Artist’s Studio
(by Christina Rossetti)

One face looks out from all his canvasses,
    One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;
    We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
    A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,
    A saint, an angel; – every canvass means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
    And she with true kind eyes looks back on him
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
    Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
    Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.



  1. Yay! I’ve been meaning to read Christina Rossetti for some time, but haven’t had the courage mainly because I don’t know where to start. When I read poems, I usually analyse them, I don’t just read them like a novel, which can be hard to a newcomer. Btw I enjoyed your Rossettis in Wonderland. Will you be writing anything on Christina specifically?

    Caroline responded at 10:57pm on 05/12/2012
  2. Hello Caroline,

    I’m so delighted to hear you enjoyed my book. Thank you so much for letting me know!

    I do plan on writing more on Christina Rossetti. I’ve got an academic essay coming out soon about Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne.

    But you remind me that it’s been a while since I’ve posted on Christina on this blog. Will have a think!

    Dinah responded at 09:07pm on 05/15/2012

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Pre-Raphaelites in the City

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This blog explores the thriving Victorian cities which inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, and were shaped by them in turn. While the Pre-Raphaelites produced poetry and art praising the natural world, most were born and raised in urban environments, and their work retained a cosmopolitan sensibility. Although this blog will sometimes take excursions into the countryside, its focus will remain on city life. If you want more information on images or sources, please get in touch.