Words on the Window-pane

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1853
Rhyme: abbaaccadefdef
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Ballads and Sonnets text.

Scholarly Commentary


We know little about this sonnet or its circumstances of composition. DGR's note to the poem— “For a woman's fragmentary inscription”—sets only the general context, and its dating (1853) comes from WMR's brief notation in his 1911 edition.

Nonetheless, the archaic phrase “tettered cark” gives a suggestive clue for reading the poem. Writing inscriptions and even poems on glass are things we associate with the sixteenth and early seventeenth-century, not the nineteenth. That chronological disjunction underscores the speaker's distance from the sensibility of the woman whose text he is glossing with his sonnet. The poem should thus probably be read as a kind of dramatic monologue rather than as a first-person lyric.

Inapt in various ways, the opening of Wuthering Heights can nonetheless scarcely not come to one's mind when reading the poem, especially given the date of the sonnet.

Textual History: Composition

A single manuscript survives, a fair copy (with revisions to the title) in a bound volume of manuscripts at Princeton.

Printing History

First printed in Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 8-1853.raw.xml