The P. R. B. By Christina Rossetti Analysis

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Romane Monnet 1S4

Critical appreciation - The P.R.B. from Christina Rossetti’s Selected Poems

The P.R.B., or Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was an artistic fraternity founded in 1848, which aimed to return to pre-Raphael Italian art by reaching back from a stultified present to a more ancient & purer form of life. In 1853, one of the most influential members of the movement, John Everett Millais, left the fraternity to join the A.R.A.. This can be considered a catalyst which lead to the downfall of the movement, and was therefore a motive for Christina Rossetti’s poem The P.R.B..

Christina Rossetti’s poem is in fact split into two separate poems. The first one describes the P.R.B. in all its glory. Rossetti takes the role of an enthusiastic
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On the one hand, she places herself as an obituarist by using the language of a funeral address : she mentions in lines 9 and 10 “The champion great Millais, / Attaining academic opulence” which makes it seem as if she were giving an account of his lifetime achievements. On the other hand, her humourous tone indicates her mock-solemn attitude : the image of the painter cooking in line 2 “For Woolner in Australia cooks his chops” emphasises her amusement concerning the fraternity’s collapse. In order to explain the reasons behind this collapse, she contrasts the directions taken by each member and highlights how incompatible they have become. Indeed the first line of this poem “The P.R.B. is in its decadence” surprises the reader by its contrast with the first poem. In the second poem, Rossetti mentions the same artists as in the previous poem, but the reader cannot help noticing how drastically the situation has changed : Millais now signs his works as A.R.A., which indicates that he is now an Associate of the Royal Academy, instead of P.R.B. as described in lines 9 and 11 “Millais (...) Winds up his signature with A.R.A.” ; Woolner moves to Australia “For Woolner in Australia cooks his chops “ (line 2) and Hunt leaves for the Near-East “And Hunt is yearning for the land of Cheops” (line3). Rossetti also mentions the artists’ flaws which were not observed previously, for example Stephens who never seems to finish his work “Calm Stephens in the twilight smokes his pipe, / But long the dawning of his public day” (lines 7-8). In addition, the negative imagery adds to the pessimistic atmosphere with words such as “decadence” (line 1) , “shuns” (line 4), or “disesteemed” (line 6). The use of satire in line 9 “The champion great Millais” further emphasises the fractured breaking up of the movement by using sarcasm to denigrate Millais and

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