Visit the wonderful Christina Rossetti pages at the Victorian Web.
BEATRICE, immortalized by "altissimo poeta. . . cotanto amante;" Laura, celebrated by a great though an inferior bard,--have alike paid the exceptional penalty of exceptional honor, and have come down to us resplendent with charms, but (at least, to my apprehension) scant of attractiveness.
These heroines of world-wide fame were preceded by a bevy of unnamed ladies "donne innominate" sung by a school of less conspicuous poets; and in that land and that period which gave simultaneous birth to Catholics, to Albigenses, and to Troubadours, one can imagine many a lady as sharing her lover's poetic aptitude, while the barrier between them might be one held sacred by both, yet not such as to render mutual love incompatible with mutual honor.
Had such a lady spoken for herself, the portrait left us might have appeared more tender, if less dignified, than any drawn even by a devoted friend. Or had the Great Poetess of our own day and nation only been unhappy instead of happy, her circumstances would have invited her to bequeath to us, in lieu of the "Portuguese Sonnets," an inimitable "donna innominata" drawn not from fancy but from feeling, and worthy to occupy a niche beside Beatrice and Laura.