Death, Love and Afterlife in Dante Rossetti’s and Thomas Hardy’s Works
Eternity and Death in Rossetti’s “The Blessed Damozel”
Dante Rossetti’s poems incline towards eternity and death. “The Blessed Damozel” has various versions and even a pictorial form. Poet’s work about a lover grieving the death of the loved one inspires the author of the poem. The poem is about a Damozel who died unexpectedly at a young age. She goes to heaven, where she sees her lover and yearns for a reunion. The poet uses spirituality, sensuality, imagery, and references to his own personal life to create a favorable impression of his poem. He employs an optimistic tone. The poem is interesting to the reader. It also touches some fundamental themes, such as the theme of love, which is evident in the entire poem.
The poem talks about death by comparing the two worlds, heaven and earth. The poet brings the aspect of timing. He uses poetic language to describe death; the aspect of “the ripe corn during autumn” is a period for preparation to death, while summer is the time for death. The death time is different when one is dead. A day can be compared to ten years of living. Life changes time, but time is different in heaven when one is dead.
“The Blessed Damozel” shows that people, who are in love, are afraid of death. The Damozel has no fear of death or hell, but she has a fear of separation with her lover. The Damozel describes the “gold bar of Heaven”. There were seven stars in her hair. She wishes her love was there, so that they could enjoy those things together. Heaven is stable, while the Earth keeps spinning. However, the Damozel fixes her gaze on Earth because she is longing for her lover. The imagery used in the description of heaven is captivating and sensual.
“The Blessed Damozel” features elements of love in the afterlife. The Damozel urges her lover to repent his sins and to live a holy life, so that in heaven they would reunite. The Damozel wishes that God fulfills her wish, so that her lover’s soul will join her in heaven. This part of the poem shows that there is an afterlife.
At one point, the Damozel refers to herself and her lover as “we two” and is hopeful that they will be together someday. She cannot wait to teach him the songs she sings in heaven and tell him the dream she had about him. This is a vision of love in the afterlife.
As the poem ends, the Damozel understands that she cannot have anything with her lover, may be, until time allows them to. The Damozel became conscious of the fact that she would have to enter heaven without her lover, as she realizes different worlds separate them entirely. There is no way they can continue with their love to each other, since they are in different worlds. One of them is in heaven, while the other one is on the Earth. They can do nothing about their love, but hope and pray that they will meet again.
Death and Afterterlife in “Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?”
The poem “Ah, Are you digging on my Grave?” shows that once we are dead, people who are alive will continue living their normal lives. The poem features the conversation between the living and the dead (Johnson 48). It is highly absurd that the woman is conversing with her dog; yet before she died, she had loved ones who cared for her. The poem shows the selfish human nature that easily forgets somebody once they are out of our sight. This is a sad poem, but the poet manages to add satire and make it fun despite of its seriousness.
The first question the woman asks is if it is her male lover who is digging with an intention of planting flowers. The answer to the question she asked is negative; her loved one is not planting regrets, but he has gone off to marry a wealthy woman, since this cannot affect her, while she is dead. Her male lover has a feeling that it will be a waste of time and energy planting flowers on her grave. The flowers will not bring the woman back to life. The woman keeps asking if it is her nearest dearest kin. For the second time, she receives a negative answer. The woman asks again if it is her enemy who is digging up her grave. If it is her enemy who is continuing with the hatred she had for her, the answer is still no, because her enemy stopped hating her since the time she heard of her death.
In the fourth stanza, the poet shows that the woman feels tired of guessing who could be digging on her grave. She asks for the identity of the digger. It turns out that it is her dog who is digging on her grave. The woman is thrilled with the fact that she left one sincere heart behind. She thanks her dog for faithfulness. However, it turns out that the dog was digging her grave to bury a bone with the purpose of future consumption.
Death is a vital theme in Hardy’s poem. The point he makes is that love does not outlast death. The poet believes that love only exists between people who are alive, and once one is dead, the love is dead too. The love the heroine of the poem is talking about can either come from her lover or her family. The poem does not present death as a sad thing; it asserts that people can live on and forget about their loved ones.
There are no visions of love in the afterlife in Hardy’s poem. Immediately after the woman’s death, her husband marries another woman. Had there been any hope of afterlife, the husband would have at least grieved for the woman and waited to be re united with her.
The boundary between death and life, according to Hardy, is the actual dying and the following burial period. Once dead, the woman had crossed the boundary between the living and the dead. This explains why people forgot her.
The common feature of the two poems is that the dead are able to communicate with the living. They still maintain their contacts; hence, both poems justify the existence of the afterlife. The dead are communicating with their loved ones because they still care for them, and, maybe, they are communicating to see if their loved ones miss them. Both poets use strong imagery in their works. Rossetti employs poetic imagery to describe the sensual and glorious heaven. Hardy also uses imagery to describe people’s ignorance after the woman’s death.
The false assumptions of the woman about her loved ones in Hardy’s poem show her desire to be remembered. Her husband, family, and even her enemies had forgotten her. Her existence after her death was no longer recognized by her loved ones. On the other hand, Damozel’s loved ones remembered her. Her lover communicated with her, and they longed to be reunited. The author of “The Blessed Damozel” employed religion, which brought the aspect of the afterlife even to those who are alive. That is why the Damozel could communicate with her lover.
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