That lady of all gentle memories

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Rhyme: abbaabbacdedce
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet
The sonnet has a second version of the opening quatrain.


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

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.88-91 (II. 142-145) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 214-217 .

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet with alternate beginning lines completes the sequence of traumatized texts that began with “Stay with me now and listen to my sighs” in the Vita Nuova. It comes in the narrative in Chapter XXXIV as the poem written to celebrate the first anniversary of the death of Beatrice, when Dante set himself to drawing angels. In terms of the action of the autobiography, Chapter XXXIV shows Dante making a turn from his arrested state toward more deliberated action. This meaning, announced in Dante's two different acts of angel-drawing, is refigured in the sonnet's alternative commencements. Note that in the second commencement Dante, as it were rethinking the first, says explicitly that Beatrice “led you to observe” the poet in his first, only half- conscious act of drawing. The acts of drawing and poem-making thus replicate each other as doubled events, the second in each case coming to repeat the first in a more self-conscious way. Because the second sonnet commencement refers back to the first act of drawing, the structural pattern reflects the order of the sonnet's quatrains, ABBA.

DGR's translation “lighted on my soul” (line 2) introduces a double meaning not in Dante, but one that seems especially apt for a poem so concerned with the idea of spiritual enlightenment. It is thus one of DGR's characteristically “interpretive” translational moments. The rendering of the sonnet's conclusion is more literal but equally effective in leaving open, as Dante does so carefully, the referent of the “noble intellect”; for of course Dante's own intellect has in a sense been “gone” since Beatrice left the poet. Dante's version of this double reference is altogether a more happy one, in several senses, than DGR's. In Dante the intellect is represented as having ascended to heaven (“oggi fa l'anno che nel ciel salisti”) whereas DGR's words inevitably carry a darker overtone.

DGR's source text was “Era venuta nella mente mia” 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.


The sonnet is not properly speaking a double work, but its relation is very close to the two versions of the picture The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice, the 1849 ink drawing and the 1853 watercolour.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 37d-1861.raw.xml