Lost Days

Alternately titled: (Sonnet).

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1862
Rhyme: abbaabbacdcdcd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum ed., The House of Life 198-199

◦ Caine, Recollections 237

◦ Doughty, A Victorian Romantic 309-310

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer 247


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

Scholarly Commentary


In The House of Life DGR forces this sonnet to pair with the previous one, “Vain Virtues”. As such it becomes something more than a lament for the passage of time and lost opportunities. Both octave and sestet accumulate a set of distinct (absent) presences: loss figured in (as it were) a transitive not an intransitive mode, loss that appears not as a failure to act but as a set of specific events (“this or that fair deed”, according to “Vain Virtues”). When the sestet personalizes these losses, it simultaneously reimagines them in psychological terms—specifically, as a dismembered identity.

The sonnet looks forward to “A Superscription” and “He and I”.

Textual History: Composition

WMR assigns various dates to this sonnet: “Before 1863” (see Peattie, Letters of William Michael Rossetti ); 1862 (in 1911 ; 1858? (in DGR as Designer and Writer, 293 ). W. F. Prideaux in 1904 said that CR had a copy of the sonnet before Elizabeth died (see W. F. Prideaux, “Rossetti Bibliography”, Notes and Queries 10th series II (10 Dec. 1904), 464 ). Scholars now generally accept 1862 as the date of composition: that is to say, shortly after the death of his wife.

One manuscript is extant, a fair copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence.

Textual History: Revision

The text of the Fortnightly Review is followed in all printings through the 1870 Poems, but in 1881 DGR made a signal change in line 8.

Printing History

First printed in Emily Faithfull's A Welcome, a collection of verse and prose she printed in 1863. It was next printed as Sonnet XII in the Fortnightly Review sequence of sonnets (March 1869) of “The House of Life” project. The group was printed again in the Penkill Proofs in August and kept through all prepublication texts until its publication in the 1870 Poems. The sonnet is numbered XL in “The House of Life” as published in the 1870 volume, and LXXXVI in the sequence as published in 1881.


The title recalls the “perduti giorni” of Petrarch's Rime sparse LXII. 1.


The poem has regularly been read in an autobiographical context, as Doughty's commentary shows. DGR spoke cryptically to Hall Caine about “in what but too opportune juncture it was wrung out of me” (see Caine, Recollections, 237 ). WMR's uncertainty about the poem's date—and in particular his conjecture that it might belong to 1858—suggests that he thought the poem might have reference not to DGR's wife Elizabeth but to Jane Morris (see DGR as Designer and Writer, 247 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1862.raw.xml