Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest space.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848?; 1861
Rhyme: abbaabbacdedce
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


“Introduction to Part II” (in Early Italian Poets), 189-193

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.96-97 (II. 155-157) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 245-246 .

Scholarly Commentary


The Wordsworth allusion in line 4 is at once deft and shocking: deft because of the clear parallel between Wordsworth's Lucy figure and Dante's Beatrice; shocking because, as Byron would later say of Haidee and Aurora Raby, their beauties differ as “between a flower and gem”. DGR's implicit argument here distinctly forecasts his famous declaration: “Thy soul I know not from thy body” (“Heart's Hope” line 7).

In a Dantean perspective the sonnet looks forward to the Commedia, as DGR's prose note to Chapter XLII indicates: Dante's “sospiro” (line 2) conceals his guiding “peregrino spirito” (line 8), an understanding hidden within a longing desire (lines 9-10, 14). The forecast Paradiso thus becomes here a kind of figure for this climacic moment in Dante's autobiography, where he seems poised in an exquisite vision of the relation of the text and journey he is just finishing and the text and journey he has yet to take. This sonnet incarnates that moment of poised awareness. In the sonnet's Rossettian perspective, that entire Dantean dynamic is recuperated in the “lady round whom splendours move/ In homage”, i.e., the Ideal lady of every idealizing poet's imagination, Wordsworth's natural one as well as Dante's supernatural one. In DGR's later famous (and consciously Dantean) words: “This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise/ Thy voice and hand shake still (“Soul's Beauty” lines 9-10). DGR's final sonnet—not Dante's—is a poetic splendour risen to do homage to that figure.

DGR's source text was “Oltre la spera, che più larga gira” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri.

Textual History: Composition

An early work, late 1840s.

Printing History

The translation was first published in 1861 in The Early Italian Poets; it was reprinted in 1874 in Dante and his Circle.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 17d-1861.raw.xml