Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1876
Rhyme: aabaab
Meter: iambic trimeter
Genre: lyric

Scholarly Commentary


The force of this poem depends upon its prosodic trajectory, which climaxes in the final stanza's resort to one of DGR's most important rhyming sets: here, the set of heart, art, depart, heart. That set is an instance of a key constellation of rhymes that run through The House of Life: see Nuptial Sleep, Heart's Compass, Parted Love, Without Her, The Song-Throe, Barren Spring, Newborn Death I, and A Superscription . The foundational unit of the rhyme set, the word “art”, establishes the focussing subject. In this case, the poem concludes is a characteristically Rossettian ambiguity: the soul's imagined “flight” is established as an “Adieu” to the “Sad soul and sorrowing heart”. Whether the departure marks an end or a beginning is not specified, nor is it suggested whether one would be preferable to the other, or what each might entail. What is specified is this complex of ambiguous possibilities. In this respect the poem concludes in precisely the same fashion as The House of Life.

The poem's opening recalls the opening of The Stream's Secret, and the relation is much enforced if the pencil draft of the latter is examined: as he began that poem DGR set down a list of rhyming and consonantal words. Water is the principal echoing and reflecting medium in the latter, however, whereas here it is air and wind.

DGR wrote another poem with the same title. This appears to be an early work, perhaps 1850. It is a ballad and is first published in this Archive.

Textual History: Composition

The poem was composed in 1876. Only one integral manuscript is extant—the printer's copy (at Princeton). This manuscript is reproduced in facsimile in Marillier (page 223).

Printing History

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

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 3-1876.raw.xml