Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848; 1869 (revised and redrafted)
Rhyme: abbaabbacddcdc
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet

Scholarly Commentary


The sonnet originally formed a pair with another sonnet in Italian titled “Disìo. Both were composed in 1848 originally, but in 1869 DGR recovered them and tried to rework them for fresh use. In this respect the poems exemplify one of DGR's most characteristic moves with his work: to take poems written at one historical moment and place them in a different time frame in order to expose or release other meanings. Perhaps the most remarkable example of this procedure is to be found in relation to the text titled “Another Love”.

Textual History: Composition

The sonnet was originally written as the second sonnet in a pair titled “Disìo e Compenso”. The pair exists in a fair copy in the composite state in a manuscript in the Tinker Library at Yale. This manuscript is part of one of DGR's early notebooks, and the poems in it all date from before 1850, nearly all (like this poem) from 1848.

Textual History: Revision

DGR recovered the two sonnets in 1869 and seems to have considered putting them into his volume of 1870 Poems. He did not do this but he did redraft the sonnets and give them 1869 dates (see the separate manuscripts, both cancelled, of “Disìo” in the Fitzwilliam Museum and of “Compenso” in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript.

Printing History

Several texts of this Italian sonnet survive. It was first published in 1931 by Baum in his Analytical List of Manuscripts in the Duke University Library, 53 from the Duke Library manuscript.


The following is a translation of the first version of the sonnet, which differs slightly, particularly at the end, in the second (Tinker Library) version: O mouth that in the hour of satisfaction

I have kissed so often, and so often

heard from you, with a thousand welcoming love-vows,

those immortal words of consent:—

O may the sacred incense of your kisses

always wrap in ever thickening clouds

the ancient spectres now so often buried,

Filling the heaven of our immense love!

Come, beatific mouth, O come once more!

Thinking of you, I have desired the love of you,

a sweet elixir in a rose-embowered path;

Don't you know in what, in this hour and in every hour,

I only am alive,— or what alone in my soul

Life, and Love, and Death, adores?


The subject of both this sonnet and its companion would become Jane Morris when DGR recovered and revised it in 1869. Before that, however, in the sonnet's original state (1848), its subject was fundamentally abstact and ideal: essentially the same subject as the woman addressed in “The Blessed Damozel”.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 48-1869.raw.xml