Death, alway cruel, Pity's foe in chief

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Rhyme: AaBBbA AaBBbA CDdC CDdC
Meter: iambic trimeter and pentameter
Genre: double sonnet


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

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.22-25 (II. 45-47) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 58-61 .

Scholarly Commentary


This singularly unattractive sonnet, so full of awkwardly turned archaisms, seems to have been deliberately made thus in an effort to recapitulate the equivalent kinds of ugly and excessively elaborated rhetorical forms in Dante's sonnet. To certain twentieth-century critics both Dante and DGR succumb to what has been called “the fallacy of imitative form”, but Dante would have defended his procedure vigorously. As for DGR, the manner is another example of what he called writing from “an inner standing point”.

For further commentary see the exegesis of the companion sonnet to this one, “Weep, Lovers, sith Love's very self doth weep”.

DGR's source text was “Morte villana, di pietà nemica” 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: 22d-1861.raw.xml