Rossetti and Tahirih

One of the more unusual mentions in the West of Tahirih was made by William Rossetti, brother of the famous 19th-century English poet, Christina Rossetti, in The Dublin University Magazine, March 1878.

He was lecturing on the poem, “The Revolt of Islam,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The poem features a spiritual reformer aided by his influential female companion. Rossetti connected the poem with the Bab:

“…the very singular and striking resemblance which the invented story of the “Revolt of Islam,” written in 1817, bears to some historical events of much more recent date in Persia. I refer to the career of the sect named the Babys, founded by a young man, a native of Shiraz—Mirza-Ali-Muhamad, who in 1843, was a student in a theological school.”

Rossetti writes that Tahirih had an “almost magical influence over large masses of the population.” To Rossetti, Shelley’s characters seem to prefigure both the lives of the Bab and Tahirih and the great changes following the French Revolution.

William Rossetti was a member of the secret Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood that sought a mora naturalistic approach to painting and to challenge the established formal art conventions.

Click below for a sample of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Remember” set to music:

Reading of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandius”