Love hath so long possessed me for his own

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Rhyme: ababbccbdeedff
Meter: iambic pentameter, with a trimeter at line 11
Genre: canzone
The canzone is unfinished.


“Introduction to Part II” (in Early Italian Poets) 189-193

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.80-81 (II. 129-132) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 188-190 .


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

Scholarly Commentary


As Dante's commentary preceding the text shows, the poem was begun as a canzone of praise, thus following on the two sonnets that stand before it in Dante's autobiography. But the death of Beatrice, Dante tells us, forced him to break off his composition. The poem is thus a highly dramatic work, signalling in its very form the catastrophic event it could not foresee, but now emblemizes. The broken text points toward the typical Dantean situation, where a certain manifest action or condition conceals, or rather half reveals, the presence of a less apparent but more important action. This second and higher action is God's, who removes Beatrice from Dante's immediate presence in order to execute purposes that transcend Dante's feelings of pleasure or sorrow, and even in a sense his personal happiness or unhappiness. So far as this text is concerned, we are being led to an intimation—suggested in the text itself, though we do not see it until we stand as it were outside the text's initial self-awareness—that Beatrice “beholds” Dante always (line 13), and most importantly from her divine vantage point, now in fact realized.

DGR's translation is quite free at certain crucial moments—for instance in lines 3-4, 10-12, and 14. None of these passages renders Dante's text with literal accuracy, and indeed their deviances might fairly be judged mistranslations. But the variance at line 4 is such that one sees DGR invading Dante's text in order to explicate it—a move that characterizes his translation process in general. The word “secrets” is especially telling since it calls attention to the central Dantean dynamic of hidden benevolent actions (in art as well as in life), and at the same time explicitly suggests—something Dante only implies— that Dante (and DGR) are intimate with that dynamic. It is difficult not to recall, as we read this text, DGR's poem “The Blessed Damozel”, which of course was being written at the same time as DGR was executing his translation of Dante's book.

That the poem exhibits DGR's interpretive manipulations is also suggested in the freedom of the translation at lines 7-8. The frailty of the soul, which Dante here calls attention to, as well as the body's sympathetic relation to that frailty, has been transported from these lines to the later parts of the text. The alteration underscores the poet's dependence on “My lady” and slightly shifts the implication of love's and the heart's “secrets”, as if they were more psychic than religious.

DGR's source text was “Sì lungamente m'ha tenuto Amore” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

An early work, late 1840s.

Printing History

The translation was first published in 1861 in The Early Italian Poets; it was reprinted in 1874 in Dante and his Circle.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 28d-1861.raw.xml