Love's Testament

Alternately titled: Flammifera
Alternately titled: Love's Redemption

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1869
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 186-187

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life, 67-69


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


This subtle and deceptive sonnet fairly epitomizes the sequence as a whole and DGR's characteristic method of proceeding. The nuances of the poem come into view as soon as one realizes that the word “thou” (line 1) has been worked for a number of different references. The most common reading sees a reference to “my lady” of the previous sonnet, “Bridal Birth”, and while that reference does indeed operate, the previous sonnet has associated and virtually identified the lady with her Soul, with Love, and even with the lover: for all of these identifications get engendered as the “children” of the writing's dynamic textualities. The field of the poem thus gets littered with a series of cross-references. In this sonnet the situation is further complicated by the clear introduction of the figure of Dante: the octave explicitly recalls the opening sonnet of the Vita Nuova, and the sestet references the “steep stairway” figures that DGR regularly connects to Dante (see the epigraph to “Dante at Verona”, and lines 22, 507-510).

The sonnet is a good instance of a work written specifically to be placed in The House of Life sequence. It can of course be read on its own, but its imagery and organization distinctly relate to the larger work. The fact that DGR altered the sonnet considerably when he reprinted it in 1881 reinforces our sense that its integrity for DGR lay not so much in itself, as in the sequence in which it is placed. Its connections to the sonnets that immediately precede and follow it in both the 1870 and the 1881 sequences are clear, as is its relation to the crucial “Willowwood” sonnets.

All versions argue the religious ground of the love being discussed. But in the 1870 version the reference is specially to the communion service, whereas it is more generalized in 1881. Also, the latter version specifies more clearly the relation between sacred and profane by invoking the example of Dante, whose presence pervades the sonnet.

Textual History: Composition

Almost certainly written between March and August 1869, although Tisdel dates it ?1853-1862. The poem seems clearly written to connect with both the Willowwood sonnets and Bridal Birth (as the sestet in particular shows), and these internal correspondences support the 1869 dating (first put forward by WMR: see Peattie, Letters of William Michael Rossetti, 25 ).

Four manuscripts survive, three in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript: the first draft, a corrected copy of that draft, and a corrected copy made for the 1881 publication. Another manuscript is the fair copy made for the 1870 edition and incorporated in the Princeton composite “House of Life”.

Textual History: Revision

The sonnet was substantially revised between its first publication in the 1870 Poems and its 1881 reprinting in the Ballads and Sonnets volume. The original title, “Flammifera”, was changed to “Love's Redemption” during the proof process for the 1870 volume; the received title first appeared in 1881.


The allusion to Dante here necessarily also brings in an allusion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so prominently represented in Roman Catholic iconographyas a heart in flames.

Printing History

First printed in the Penkill Proofs (August 1869) and titled “Flammifera”; it was kept through the 1869-1870 proof process and published in the 1870 Poems under the title “Love's Redemption”. When it was reprinted in 1881 it was much revised. It is The House of Life Sonnet II in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet III in 1881.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1869.raw.xml