WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 204
Baum, ed., House of Life, 109-110
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets First Edition text.
The sonnet follows upon the previous sonnet in the 1881 “House of Life” sequence, “Her Gifts”.
The octave's images make connections with the various sonnets in the sequence that elaborate the paradisal iconography of grove, shrine, and tree. The sestet, however, is the more interesting section of the poem. The pun on the word “sum” and the implicit wordplay with the word “thousandfold” focus the issues, which reach back to the word “measure” and its poetical overtones. The word “thousandfold” is here used primarily as a transcendental sign, but its elementary numerical meaning is being held for our attention by the word “sum”. The two meanings measure the distinction that is drawn between the poet's “sum” (his mortal being and his first-person address in this poem) and the lady's 's “worth”. “Thousandfold” gains its meaning of “uncountable” from the world of beings who count, as transcendent beings do not.
In the final accounting of this sonnet (in its final argument), both lover and beloved speak the whole truth as they know it from their different positions. She does “mete” their love (another word play) by a single (neo-platonic) “measure” (see “The Monochord”), whereas the lover (the poet) works by a system of differential measurements, the most powerful of which is the writing of verse.
The sonnet descends to us in four integral manuscripts: an early draft in the Ashley Library; the printer's copy now gathered in the Troxell compilation of the sonnet sequence; and two other fair copies, one in the Fitzwilliam compilation of “The House of Life”; and one made for Jane Morris and the Kelmscott Love sonnets sequence.
First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.