Feast of the Annunciation

Happy Lady Day!

Today, Christians celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation – Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her she would bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-39).

The painting above is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and is my favourite depiction of that momentous moment in time.

The reason I like the painting so much is that, unlike other interpretations of the Annunciation (I’m thinking particularly of Renaissance works), it feels real. Mary actually looks alarmed. Her bed is in a bare looking room and she is wearing only a very simple night dress. These surely reflect how little she had in real life.

This is not to say that Rossetti eschews the traditional symbolism of the Blessed Virgin. The screen behind her keeping the sun out is blue and Gabriel is holding in his hands a lily.


I owe the following extract to A Clerk of Oxford who has published a post about the Annunciation on her blog.

What you see below are some lines taken from the Anglo-Saxon poem Christ I. As you can see, the extract opens with the same word as this blog Eala! O! Instead of Earendel, though, Joseph is the centre of attention.

Eala Ioseph min, Iacobes bearn,
mæg Dauides, mæran cyninges,
nu þu freode scealt fæste gedælan,
alætan lufan mine!

“O my Joseph, son of Jacob,
kinsman of David, the glorious king,
now you must entirely split our affection,
leave behind my love!

You can read the whole poem, and the Clerk’s post, here.


It’s good to see Joseph here. Thanks to the attention given to Mary, he is, in a way, the Forgotten Man of the Gospels. At the time, however, his role was critical. Had he turned against Mary (for becoming pregnant when he wasn’t the father), the consequences for her could have been deadly. As it was, and thanks to a timely dream, all ended well.

Fans of J R R Tolkien’s work will spot the word ‘lufan’ (love), from which JRRT ultimately derived Luthien.

I hope you have a happy and holy day.


This entry was posted in Anglo-Saxon Religious Poetry, Nineteenth Century Art and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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