Love's Lovers

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1869 July
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life, 77

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 189-190


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1870 Poems First Edition text.

Scholarly Commentary


Though regularly (and understandably) criticized for its mannered Petrarchanism (“too labored and artificial”, in Baum's phrasing: The House of Life, 77 ), the sonnet appears to arrange itself as an argument for the realization of an Ideal love experience. The work makes an elaborate display of its artifices and allegorical forms, but it uses them as indices of “the superficial pleasures of love” ( The House of Life, 77 ) and “frivolous or self-seeking views of love” (see WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 189 ). In mounting its criticism of those impoverished forms of love, the sonnet necessarily turns its own artificialities into signs of an imaginative shortfall. Against such failures the sonnet sets up a momentary monument to an alternative and higher order of imagination. This comes in the eleventh line, upon which the entire sonnet is made to pivot. In a characteristic Rossettian move, DGR works the word “unimagined” so that it will be taken to mean both “not imagined” (i.e., real) and “beyond imagination” (i.e., transcendental, Ideal). This exquisite effect seems meant to recall, and replicate, the final line of “Nuptial Sleep”, when a similar experience of a realized Ideal form is recorded.

Textual History: Composition

The date of composition is July 1869, as we know from the manuscript of the poem DGR sent in a letter to William Bell Scott. Peattie gives the date “Before mid-autumn 1869” (see Peattie, Letters of William Michael Rossetti, 6 ), and Baum follows Tisdel in the conjectural date of “?1853-1862” (see Baum, The House of Life, 77 ).

Textual History: Revision

The text goes unrevised after its appearance in the 1870 Poems, and only one substantive change was made earlier. Besides the copy sent to Scott, there is a later corrected copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript.

Printing History

First printed in mid-August 1869 as part of the Penkill Proofs, the sonnet remained in all proof stages and was published in the 1870 Poems and thereafter. It is The House of Life Sonnet VII in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet VIII in 1881.


The sonnet is highly literary, working off the concettistic manner of the Petrarchan tradition. The quasi-allegorical figures appearing throughout the poem are generally treated as second-order images of an imagination that is “anhungered of” higher order realities.


Line 13 seems to be an oblique reference to Elizabeth Siddal's pale eyes, here seen as shadowed from their flat greenish blue (which is how WMR described them: see WMR, Memoir I, 171 ) into grey. The shadowing is used throughout the sequence as a figura of death. (Jane Morris had dark eyes.)

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 6-1869.raw.xml