Stratton Water

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1854 October 15
Rhyme: a4b3c4b3
Meter: iambic
Genre: ballad
At three points in the poem—stanzas 13, 31, and 41—DGR adds two extra lines, d4b3.


◦ Gregory, Life and Works of DGR, II. 122

◦ Howard, The Dark Glass, 63-68

◦ Keane, “D. G. Rossetti's Poems 1870”, 195-196

◦ Riede, DGR Revisited, 74


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.

Scholarly Commentary


Composed in 1854, the poem sophisticates the old balladic form, though not nearly so much as DGR's other ballad imitations. The occasion of its original composition is not known, and while its pastiche character invites comparison with the ballad work of Morris and especially Swinburne, neither had any influence on this work—indeed, they did not come into contact with DGR until two years after this poem was written.

Lines 153-156, a late addition, have been well taken to show that Rossetti was capable of considerable ironic detachment toward his romance materials (see Riede, DGR Revisited, 74 ). The irony, however, is very much in the spirit of medieval ballads, which often carry coarse and bawdy comic elements of these kinds.

Textual History: Composition

DGR wrote the poem in 1854, completing it around 15 October, as he wrote to Allingham: “[I] have finished a ballad—professedly modern-antique, of which I remember telling you the story as we were walking about Mrs.Orme's garden”. Enclosing a copy in his letter, he asked for comments and added: “Don't think it is finished yet. . . . I have purposely taken an unimportant phrase here and there from the old things. I was doubting whether it would not be better to make the improper lord and lady slip into a new-made open grave, while wading through the churchyard, and be drowned. This might make a good description and conclusion, and I fear the thing is at present almost too unpoetical in style” ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 54. 67 ). When Allingham entered into a minute critique, DGR determined to set the piece aside. Nevertheless, it is clear that he thought reasonably well of the work, and that he did not agree with much of Allingham's commentary (see his remarks to Allingham in a letter of ca. 12 November, ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 54. 70 ).

The earliest surviving manuscript is the copy in the Princeton-Taylor notebook. This is a fair copy with many later revisions. The manuscript is copied on leaves torn from one of DGR's typical notebooks; the notebook probably dates from the mid-1850s. Other fragments of the poem are preserved in the Princeton-Troxell collection: a corrected copy of stanzas 23-25, and a corrected copy of stanzas 38, 18, and three unpublished stanzas.

Textual History: Revision

When DGR determined to set a corpus of his poetical works in type in the summer of 1869, this was the last poem to be added to the initial set of materials that was printed around 18 August 1869 (the so-called Penkill Proofs)—the first of the proofs that were to eventuate in the publication of the 1870 Poems. DGR sent the poem to his publisher Strangeways on 16 August 1869 (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69. 125 ). This printer's copy for the Penkill Proofs is the manuscript now gathered among the miscellaneous manuscripts in the 1869-1871 Princeton/Taylor Notebook.

The text of the ballad underwent heavy revision in the proof process, particularly in the Penkill Proofs and the A Proofs (Lewis's proofs states 2 and 3). But it is clear from his correspondence at the time (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69. 137 ) that some of these revisions were reconstructions of revisions that had been made earlier, but that DGR had lost.

Reception History

See Commentary (Reception History) for the 1870 Poems.

Printing History

First printed in the Penkill Proofs (around 18 August 1869), it passed through all the prepublication proof states until it was published in the 1870 Poems, and was collected thereafter.


The poem is a sophisticated ballad imitation. Much of the work is conceived in the spirit of pastiche, but the text regularly displays its literary and second-order character. (The happy ending of the story is not at all in the style of the old ballads.) Nonetheless, the pastiche manner is important, and connects the poem to DGR's translations as well as to his religious pastiche work (such as Ave). An analogous effort is displayed in much of his early painting—for example, in works like The Girlhood of Mary Virgin or Ecce Ancilla Domini!.

The traditional ballads most readily brought to mind in DGR's poem are perhaps “Childe Waters”, “Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard”, and “The Lass of Roch Royal”.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 7-1854.raw.xml