The Birth-Bond

Alternately titled: Nearest Kindred

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1854
Rhyme: abbaaccadedeed
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life, 87-88

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 194-195


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1870 Poems First Edition Text.

Scholarly Commentary


The date of this sonnet—1854—defines an important subtextual function. The sonnet argues that an elective affinity binds the love of the poet and his lady, here (in the context of the sonnet as part of The House of Life sequence) the Innominata. The fatality of their love—its pre-existence, as it were—became clear, the poem argues, when the poet first met her. The model for such an idea comes, of course, from Dante's Vita Nuova, from Dante's relation to Beatrice. But the argument of the sonnet gains special force when we recall that DGR did not meet Jane Burden Morris—the unnamed Innominata of the sequence—until 1857, three years after he wrote this sonnet. In the context of his later employment of the sonnet in The House of Life sequence, DGR forces it to stand as a prophetic utterance. As such, the sonnet itself becomes an index or exponent of its substantive (Beatricean) thought.

Textual History: Composition

DGR wrote it in late July or possibly early August 1854; he sent a copy in a letter to William Allingham with a note that it was “written only two or three days ago”. Another copy, probably earlier, is part of the so-called Notebook II at the Duke University Library. A corrected copy is also gathered in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript.

Textual History: Revision

The text of the sonnet DGR sent to Allingham in 1854 is significantly different from the one he printed in the 1870 Poems. DGR also made changes to the text during the 1869-1870 proof process.

Printing History

First printed in the Penkill Proofs in August 1869, it passed through all the subsequent pre-publication documents for the 1870 Poems, where it was first published. It is The House of Life Sonnet XI in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet XV in 1881.


Lying just below the sonnet's explicit imagery is a reference to the love-structure made famous by Dante in the Vita Nuova. The sestet in particular recalls the opening section of the Vita Nuova.


The autobiographical level of the sonnet changes its character if it is read as part of The House of Life sequence or if it is not. In each case the beloved is imagined in Beatricean terms. But as an integral sonnet (written in 1854), one inclines to read it in relation to DGR's love for Elizabeth Siddal; whereas if one reads it in The House of Life sequence, where it is associated with the Innominata, Jane Morris emerges as the poet's soul's birth-partner.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1854.raw.xml