Severed Selves

Alternately titled: Between Meetings

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1871
Rhyme: abbaaccadeedde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 209

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life, 121-122

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet initiates a sequence of five related sonnets that were added (as a unit) to the 1881 version of “The House of Life”. The sequence forms a kind of commentary on the sonnet they follow in 1881, “Sleepless Dreams”.

The sonnet is a good example of how DGR works the poetry of the sequence so as to permit a double reference for the Beloved: in biographical terms, either to DGR's dead wife Elizabeth, or to the Innominata, Mrs.Morris.

Also notable is the formal disposition of the images. The octave lays down a series of four figurative equivalences for the “severance” taken up in the poem. The octave ends on an open grammar, licensing the sestet to pick up and elaborate the last of these images.

Line 4's “stream” may refer to the ocean, as in the phrase “ocean stream”, or to the Penwhapple—the stream in the glen at Penkill that is the focus of “The Stream's Secret” and that figures so prominently in the 1870 version of “The House of Life” (see “Farewell to the Glen” as well as the next sonnet in the 1881 sequence, “Through Death to Love” where the motifs of this sonnet are carried forward).

Textual History: Composition

Three integral manuscripts survive: an early holograph corrected copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript; a fair copy from that manuscript; and another fair copy in the Bodleian Kelmscott Love Sonnets group. DGR's draft revision for line 14 is scripted into Ashley Notebook II.

Printing History

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

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 21-1871.raw.xml