Praz, McGann, and Fass on "Laus veneris"

Anthony H. Harrison, Professor of English, North Carolina State University


Note 11, chapter 2, in the author's Swinburne's Medievalism: A Study in Victorian Love Poetry which Louisiana State University Press published in 1979. It has been included in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

Praz, the first critic to insist upon this view of Venus, also reinforces the connections between this poem and Swinburne's interest in Baudelaire. In "Laus veneris", Praz argues, "the subject of Keats's Belle Dame Sans Merci is treated more profoundly and elaborated with all the resources of a grim and satanic Pre-Raphaelite medievalism. Venus who was 'the world's delight' [is] now fallen, in Christian times, to the level of a sinister vampire, . . . she whom the poet evoked again later in the ode on the death of Baudelaire, Ave Atque Vale" (The Romantic Agony, 228-29). Both McGann (Swinburne, 256) and Barbara Fass extend Praz's perspective on the Venus of "Laus Veneris" by using Ave Atque Vale as a gloss on the earlier poem. Referring to Swinburne's concern, in his elegy on saudelairet with the "historical process" involved in treatments of venus as a symbol and mythological figure, Fass also suggests, but does not pursue, the implication that 8winburne's interest in historical matters was crucial in shaping "Laus Veneris" as well (La Belle Dame, 181-82) .

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Last updated: June 2000