The Song-Throe

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1880 April 12
Rhyme: abbaaccadeedff
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 225-226

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life 158-159


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

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet elaborates on the Horatian theme of “si vis me flere” that was announced in the sonnet preceding this one in the 1881 “House of Life” sequence. This argument for poetic sincerity, however, incorporates an imperative for “fundamental brainwork” as well. The most striking illustration of DGR's position comes in line 9 where he works out the brilliant wordplay with “Song-god” and “Sun-god”. This is far more than a reference to Apollo. The wordplay calls up the important “child theme” and connects it to the god of poetry, who now gets explicitly revealed as the child-god of love, Cupid, who is, like Apollo, a bow-hunter as well.

Textual History: Composition

Written 12 April 1880, the sonnet descends to us in three integral manuscripts. The earliest is probably the corrected copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence (where a fair copy by DGR is also located). Another fair copy is in the Library of Congress, and in Note Book IV in the Ashley Library DGR has copied out texts of lines 1 and 9-12 (pages 39v and 39r).

Printing History

First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1880.raw.xml