A day agone, as I rode sullenly

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Rhyme: abbaabbacdecde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


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

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.36-37 (II. 61-62) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 65-67 .

Scholarly Commentary


To understand the character of DGR's translation one needs a firm grasp on what is happening in its complex original.

Dante's prose prelude to this sonnet is so explicit in its details that one might well wonder why he wrote the sonnet at all. But the verse is more than a concentrated reprisal of the prose, it comes in the text as a riddle poem quite like the opening sonnet, “To every heart which the sweet pain doth move”. Both are prophetic of the mysterious agency of Love, who is directing Dante's life in ways that he cannot always understand, and that often bring pain and sorrow. So the Italian poem's cryptic style cuts back across the lucid prose to suggest the presence of some secret level of meaning in the recorded events. The striking difference between the way the prose and the verse treat the disappearance of Love throws the uncanny character of the poetry into sharp relief.

The remarkable poetic quality of DGR's translations is illustrated here in the way DGR “rhymes” the first and the final lines through the repetition of the word “gone”. The word immediately comes to one's attention in line 1 because of the striking auditional play in the first three words (recalling certain similar effects in Keats, for instance, “Not to the sensual ear, but more endear'd”). With line 14 the word comes back to us in what the Italian poets would call a “rima equivoca”. It is difficult not to believe that in this move DGR was attempting to make a variant replay of the “rima equivoca” in Dante's sonnet (lines 10 and 13).

DGR's source text was “Cavalcando l'altr'ier per un cammino” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri.

Textual History: Composition

This is an early translation, in the 1840s, perhaps as early as 1846.

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: 21d-1861.raw.xml