Parted Love

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


◦ Doughty, A Victorian Romantic, 397

◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life, 131-132

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 213-214


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


The military tropes organize the argument, which in brief terms constructs an imagination of a defeated army; of a dispirited and captured soldier; and finally (in the sestet) of a call to resistance, inspired by a memory of past heroic passion. This constellation of images mixes with a more literal set, where the poet is speaking of a day and a (forthcoming) night when his lady and he will be separated from each other.

The additional conceits introduced in the sestet complicate the sonnet even more. They are important, however, for two reasons: first, the “passionate portraitures” remind us that it is the artist/poet himself, and his aesthetic acts, that inspirit (and inspire); and second, the call they make is a call to suffering, for a life in Love is a life lived in terms of interminable desire (“wild will”).

Textual History: Composition

Written at Penkill in August 1869; he sent a copy of the poem to Ford Madox Brown in a letter of 26 August (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69. 136 ). When DGR sent the A Proofs to WMR on 14 September he queried the last line because William Bell Scott thought it “too violent. Do you think so? It occurs to me to say ‘And thy feet stir not, and thy body endures.’ Do you like this better? It conveys the sense of impotent retention, which is wanted, but that is already conveyed in line 7.” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69. 154 ). WMR replied that the sonnet was “very fine” as it stood ( Letters of William Michael Rossetti, 231 ).

The manuscript in the Princeton-Taylor collection is a heavily revised and corrected fair copy. It was either printer's copy for the text in the A Proofs or the basis of the printer's copy. The fair copy sent to Brown is in the U. of British Columbia library. The copy in the composite Fitzwilliam manuscript is a copy made by Charles Fairfax Murray.

Textual History: Revision

The text first printed in September 1869 in the A Proofs was altered only slightly in subsequent texts, in line 5.


The conceit of the “passionate portraitures” has a literal meaning—i.e., one is asked to think of actual pictures of the face of the poet's lady, for the poet is also an artist. But the phrase signals as well this poet's committment to think (and act) in terms of images in general.

Printing History

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


DGR's splendid parody of this sonnet, “Parted Love!”, throws considerable light on DGR's poetic style, as well as his self-conscious understanding of both his writing and his personal life.


The autobiographical references in the poem are by no means unambiguous. In one perspective the sonnet may reflect on DGR's sense of loneliness in being separated from Jane Morris. This is how Doughty reads the poem, and in that reading the “passionate portraitures” (line 11) refer to DGR's pictorial representations of her. But that phrase might as well refer to his pictures of his wife, or even to her own paintings and drawings. This basic ambiguity underscores the third reading, where the reference is not to any particular person, but to the particular dream-vision of which they may all be taken as instatiations.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 12-1869.raw.xml