Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Fitzwilliam Manuscript text.
When first composed, the sonnet formed a pair with the sonnet
Compenso. There are
multiple manuscript copies of both, though DGR left them unpublished.
DGR dates this sonnet March 1868 in the cancelled Fitzwilliam Museum text but that date signals when he recovered the sonnet and thought to rework it for publication in his 1870 Poems. The sonnet, like its companion, was originally written in 1848 (see commentary for “Compenso”).
was the first to print a text of this work and its companion sonnet in 1931 in his
Analytical List of
Manuscripts in the Duke
University Library, 53-54
O mouth that in the hour of desireI have studied so often and gained peace,how the many spirits of the fixated eyekiss at all hours, and always my lip,—
Ah, mouth, what pleasure I desire from you,O what hope that would not fail,or what smile like yours, tell me if it pleases you,and what words, through the power of God's love?
Alas poor hope! and how can I thinkTo join peace, with its closely folded wings,to these twin smiling portals?The more erotically intense each wordseems, alas the more it becomes for usthe source of the silence of death.