The Bride's Prelude

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This excerpt from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem, The Bride's Prelude", shows a coded Victorian language that speaks about the queering of race and refer's to the bride's room as a "chamber", suggesting some sort of forced or arranged marriage. There is a lot of reference to gold and jewels on the bride's head in this first section of Rossetti's poem, which alludes to Egyptian culture. None of Rossetti's poems really addresses or blatantly discusses the mullatto woman or Black woman (or any woman of color, for that matter), but in these codes that reference different geographical parts of the world and how it is used in juxtoposition with palesness and whitness form this queering of race when compared to Euro-centric, white features that are ideal in Victorian England. 


“Sister,” said busy Amelotte 
To listless Aloÿse; 
“Along your wedding-road the wheat 
Bends as to hear your horse's feet, 
And the noonday stands still for heat.” 
Amelotte laughed into the air 
With eyes that sought the sun: 
But where the walls in long brocade 
Were screened, as one who is afraid 
Sat Aloÿse within the shade. 
And even in shade was gleam enough 
To shut out full repose 
From the bride's 'tiring-chamber, which 
Was like the inner altar-niche 
Whose dimness worship has made rich. 
Within the window's heaped recess 
The light was counterchanged 
In blent reflexes manifold 
From perfume-caskets of wrought gold 
And gems the bride's hair could not hold, 
All thrust together: and with these 
A slim-curved lute, which now, 
At Amelotte's sudden passing there, 
Was swept in somewise unaware, 
And shook to music the close air. 
Against the haloed lattice-panes 
The bridesmaid sunned her breast; 
Then to the glass turned tall and free, 
And braced and shifted daintily 
Her loin-belt through her côte-hardie. 
The belt was silver, and the clasp 
Of lozenged arm-bearings; 
A world of mirrored tints minute 
The rippling sunshine wrought into 't, 
That flushed her hand and warmed her foot. 
At least an hour had Aloÿse— 
Her jewels in her hair— 
Her white gown, as became a bride, 
Quartered in silver at each side— 
Sat thus aloof, as if to hide. 
Over her bosom, that lay still, 
The vest was rich in grain, 
With close pearls wholly overset: 
Around her throat the fastenings met 
Of chevesayle and mantelet. 
Her arms were laid along her lap 
With the hands open: life 
Itself did seem at fault in her: 
Beneath the drooping brows, the stir 
Of thought made noonday heavier. 
Long sat she silent; and then raised 
Her head, with such a gasp 
As while she summoned breath to speak 
Fanned high that furnace in the cheek 
But sucked the heart-pulse cold and weak. 
(Oh gather round her now, all ye 
Past seasons of her fear,— 
Sick springs, and summers deadly cold! 
To flight your hovering wings unfold, 
For now your secret shall be told. 
Ye many sunlights, barbed with darts 
Of dread detecting flame,— 
Gaunt moonlights that like sentinels 
Went past with iron clank of bells,— 
Draw round and render up your spells!) 

Title of volume of first printing
Poems: A New Edition
Ellis & White
Page numbers in original volume

Rossetti, Dante G. The Bride's Prelude. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's personal notebooks. Corrected by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Corrected Fair Copy. 1870-1880. British Library,      Ashley collection.

Rossetti, Dante G."The Bride's Prelude". Poems. A New Edition. 1st Ed. Ellis & White, 1881. pp. ii,viii, 188-237. Alderman Library, U. of    Virginia.

Rossetti, Dante G. The Bride. 1865-1866; 1873. Tate Gallery, London.