The Church Porches

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1853
Genre: poem group

General Description of The Church-Porches I.

Date: 1848
Rhyme: abbaabbaccdeed
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet

General Description of The Church-Porches II.

Date: 1848
Rhyme: abbaabbacddece
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.

Scholarly Commentary


William Bell Scott transcribed both sonnets in 1853 from DGR's manuscripts. The poems represented an early style in DGR's writing, as Scott points out—examples of “the spirit that had made him choose ‘Songs of the Art Catholic’ as a general title” for his work. Scott goes on to observe of the sonnets: “The first, on entering Church, was addressed to his sister Maria; the second, on leaving Church, to Christina”. In a footnote Scott adds that “They were what he considered juvenile things at that day, 1853, and I confess to being surprised to see one of them printed among his latest efforts in 1881. The two sonnets taken in connection, and as characteristic of his early time, 1848, as they were written, are very interesting” (see Scott, Autobiographical Notes, I. 290 ).

Sharp observes that the sonnets represent “the reaction experienced in finding a soulless service in the building wherein were expected to be found ‘Silence, and sudden dimness, and deep prayer, And faces of crowned angels all about’” ( Sharp, DGR. A Record and a Study, 403-404 ).

Textual History: Composition

WMR dates the sonnets 1853 and William Bell Scott (see above) says they were written in 1848, although his own letter and enclosure of 1869 shows that he must have forgotten that the correct date is 1853. The only extant manuscripts appear to be DGR's fair copy of the first sonnet (at Princeton) and two copies made by Scott: the copy of the first sonnet sent with Scott's letter of August 1869, and a copy of the second sonnet sent with another Scott letter. Scott's note to the second sonnet, which seems copied from DGR's (untraced) original manuscript, states that the sonnet was written “at Newcastle—1853”

Printing History

The first of the two sonnets was printed in the 1881 "Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter. The second was first printed paired with the first by Edmund Gosse in 1882 in his essay “Dante Gabriel Rossetti” in The Century Magazine (September 1882) 722 . The second sonnet was printed again in a slightly different version by William Bell Scott in his 1892 Autobiographical Notes, I. 290-291 . WMR collected the first sonnet only in his 1886 edition but did not collect both together until 1911, where he follows the Gosse text for the first sonnet.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 16-1853.raw.xml