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Is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “A Border Song” genuine?
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D. G. R., "A Border Song"

D. G. R., “A Border Song”

On 14 January 1860, Once a Week published “A Border Song” (p. 66), illustrated by “Phiz.” The author was a “D. G. R.”, the initials used by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

But is he the author?

The Rossetti Archive points out that William Michael Rossetti didn’t include the poem in any of his many editions of his brother’s works, and indeed the Archive is less than complimentary about the aesthetic success of the ballad pastiche.

But I wonder if the circumstantial evidence might point towards the authorship as genuine. The commission of the illustrator, “Phiz”, or Hablot Knight Browne, perhaps suggests the poet was noteworthy. And, more compellingly, Dante Gabriel’s sister, Christina, published two ballads in the same magazine just months previously (“In the Round Tower at Jhansi” appeared on 13 August 1859, and “Maude Clare” on 6 November 1859).

Given the rich tradition of border ballads, the Rossettis’ admiration for Sir Walter Scott (whose 1802 Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border promoted the border ballad vogue), and both Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s experimentation with the ballad form, it is worth reopening the question of authorship and authenticity. What would a genuine ballad pastiche look like?

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