A Dark Day

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1855 January
Rhyme: abbaabbacdcdcd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life 169-170

◦ Doughty, A Victorian Romantic 154

◦ WMR, Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer. 231


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1870 First Edition Text.

Scholarly Commentary


As with the two sonnets that flank this one in the 1870 “House of Life” (“The Landmark” and “The Hill Summit”), this poem develops an arresting reflexive structure. A phrase like “these airs” (line 1), as well as the whole attendant mode of presentness, refers equally to the context 1869-1870/1881, and to a context ca. 1853-1855. A “gloom” calls to another “gloom”, as it were. So we are encouraged to see that the original sonnet (of 1855) might itself constitute the “old rain” (line 4) referred to in the sonnet of 1869-1870. So “this hour” (line 5) trembles with an uncanny forecast and retrospect simultaneously, with the two historically-defined moments coming in this text to mirror each other. The entire sonnet is organized around such mirrorings.

In this perspective one sees the sonnet trying to develop (particularly in the sestet) an argument about a benevolent inertia operating through any “harvest of new tares” (line 5).

Textual History: Composition

DGR sent fair copies of this, “my latest sonnet”, to three of his friends: to Allingham on 23 January 1855 (where he wondered: “Does it smack though of Tupper at all?—it seems to, in copying”); to William Bell Scott, and to Holman Hunt (in letters of 13 February and 30 Januuary respectively) (see Doughty and Wahl, Letters I. 241-243). The Hunt copy has a few cancellations and all three manuscripts show minor differences. One other manuscript, a corrected copy, comes in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence.

Textual History: Revision

DGR revised the text of 1855 when he came to print it in the proofs for the 1870 Poems. All the printed texts are substantively identical.

Printing History

First printed in September 1869 as part of the A Proofs, the sonnet remained in all proof stages and was published in the 1870 Poems and thereafter. It is “The House of Life” Sonnet XXXII in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet LXVIII in 1881.


Doughty reads the sonnet as the personal expression of “a tardy but sincere love for some humble person whose affection he has abused and betrayed in his expectation of a sincere passion for some more exalted lover who will appear in due time” (Doughty, A Victorian Romantic 154 ). This is probably a too particularized allegorical reading, but the structure of its thought is by no means inapt for the poem as it figures in The House of Life.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1855.raw.xml