Sleepless Dreams

Alternately titled: Sleepless Love

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1869
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life, 120-121

◦ Doughty, A Victorian Romantic, 387-389

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 208


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

Scholarly Commentary


The title of the poem has not been often enough attended to. DGR is speaking at once of sleepless nights when one's rest is disturbed by loneliness, and of erotic images that move like sleepless figures in the dark imagination of the poet. The latter are in fact the waking dreams of art—the poems and pictures that embody and then continue to haunt the mind of the poet/artist. This sonnet is itself a sleepless dream, according to DGR.

The sonnet continues to develop the images and implications of the Grove of Love motif (see “Bridal Birth”, “Love's Lovers”, and “Winged Hours” in particular).

Textual History: Composition

“Before March 1869” (see WMR, Classified Lists, 6 ). The poem's close relation to “Winged Hours” suggests that DGR wrote it in early 1869, as he was preparing the print his group of sixteen sonnets in the Fortnightly Review sequence of sonnets (March 1869). But Doughty dates it 1868 (see Doughty, A Victorian Romantic, 349 ).

There are two extant manuscripts, both in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript: a draft and a corrected copy. Both are titled “Sleepless Love”.

Textual History: Revision

DGR revised the poem somewhat from its text as printed in the Fortnightly Review of March 1869 to its printing in the Penkill Proofs in August. After that, only line 9 was revised, and the text as published in 1870 is the same as that in 1881.

Printing History

First printed as Sonnet V in the initial Fortnightly Review sequence of sonnets (March 1869) of “The House of Life” project. It was printed again in the Penkill Proofs in August and kept through all prepublication texts until its publication in the 1870 Poems. The sonnet is number XIX in “The House of Life” as published in the 1870 volume, and number XXXIX in the sequence as published in 1881.


The sonnet is closely related to the 1881 poem “Insomnia” , as Baum has noted (see Baum The House of Life, 121 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 10-1869.raw.xml