Alternately titled: Lovelight

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1871
Rhyme: abbaabbacddcee
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 188

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life, 104-105


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.

Scholarly Commentary


The poem exemplifies the extreme (and subtle) difficulties that DGR so often sets for his readers. Because the sonnet in its 1881 printing follows directly upon “Heart's Compass”, where a personifed (and capitalized) “Love” dominates the sestet, we expect to read line 2 here as a reference to that figure. The reference is strengthened at the end of this sonnet's octave, where the personified God appears in his customary capitalized form. The problem is that the word in line two is “love” not “Love”. That typography leads one to read the opening two lines as referring to the speaker's love for the lady, who is therefore represented as the cause of his “rapture”. But this view of the matter is dislocated when we read line 6, where the “more hungering thrill” is figuratively located in the lady. The octave concludes with two lines that attribute the love-dynamic just described to Love's agency acting on his own “inmost ark”, as if the lovers' souls were “distilled” to purity in the fire of love, which (in another figure) separates the wheat from the chaff of the lovers' relationship.

These complications in the verse are further reinforced in the sonnet's conclusion, where DGR works the preposition “through” for a double meaning: her “soul” can be perceived to be acting through her eyes and voice, and the action then reciprocally moves the lover's soul. The entire action is then generalized as a dynamic of “infinite love”.

The artifice and difficulty of this kind of verse are equally extreme and represent a special kind of metaphysical writing. The purpose is not (as in 16th an 17th century verse) to distinguish certain neo-platonic categories. Rather, it is to distinguish how their operations are experienced as a dynamical process of mergings and dissolutions.

Textual History: Composition

The sonnet descends to us in four integral manuscripts: an early corrected draft now gathered in the Troxell compilation of the sonnet sequence; and three fair copies, one in the Bancroft collection; another in the Fitzwilliam compilation of The House of Life; and one made for Jane Morris and the Kelmscott Love sonnets sequence.

Printing History

First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 13-1871.raw.xml