God's Graal

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1858
Rhyme: a4b3a4a4b4a4
Meter: tetrameter (with trimeter internal refrain)
Genre: ballad


◦ Baum, ed., An Analytical List of Manuscripts, 41-43, 78-95


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.

Scholarly Commentary


DGR first conceived this work in the late 1850s and he continued to consider writing it into the 1870s. He planned to write the poem during his stay at Barbara Bodichon's house in Scalands in the spring of 1870 but, as he told Swinburne in a letter of 22 March, “it baffled me rather on taking it up, owing to the limitations of the burden i had adopted. However, I may tackle it yet,” he said, but he never went beyond gathering certain relevant source materials and drafting some initial stanzas (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 70. 64 ).

What DGR had in mind is set forth in some detail in his letter to Swinburne of 9 March 1870 (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 70. 47 ). The poem's theme —“the loss of the Sangraal by Lancelot”—was to be taken up so as “to emphasize the marked superiority of Guenevere over God”. Baum remarks that this comment “need not be taken too seriously” (43), which is itself a remark that need not be taken too seriously. Like Swinburne, DGR was well aware of the ludicrous elements in these archaic Christian and Arthurian materials, but that awareness did not prevent either from handling them in poetically “serious” ways.

Textual History: Composition

DGR's transliterated transcription of his source in Malory (plus an initial fragmentary verse text) is preserved in Notebook IV in the Duke University Library. The Fitzwilliam Library's bound volume of Poems and Sonnets contains DGR's transcription of a long passage from the French prose Lancelot du Lac which he copied from the Paris edition of 1533 (see the passage at signature l pages v verso and vi recto). DGR was apprised of this work in March 1870 by Swinburne, who saw a copy for sale at the bookseller Molini. The Fitzwilliam Library text is the transcript that DGR made from this book of “the passage about the first kiss” between Lancelot and Gurnevere—a passage that struck DGR, as his letter to Swinburne makes clear, as comical in certain unintended ways.

Printing History

The fragment was first printed in WMR's 1911 edition. Baum first printed DGR's transcription of the Malory text in 1931; the prose Lancelot du Lac text is first published here.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1858.raw.xml