Without Her

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 219

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life, 143-145


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


Baum's commentary, which emphasizes the ambiguity of reference in the autobiographical level of this sonnet and the work as a whole, remains critically central.

In more technical terms, we want to note how carefully the poem has been constructed to make connections with previous texts and themes. Each line reaches back to one or another resonant earlier textual moment. DGR arrests our attention to this process of reverse engineering by the literal character of the intertextual links in lines 1-4 (see notes below). The rest of the poem works more loosely and suggestively, freeing the reader to establish connections that are less explicitly anticipated or demanded by the sonnet itself.

The lines are thus micro-instances of what DGR called each sonnet at the outset of the 1881 sequence): moments' monuments that recall, in both senses of the word, dead deathless moments, hours, events. Having been committed to textuality, these moments gain a kind of deathlessness. But that very commitment reciprocally arises as the deathless sign of their irrevocable loss.

Textual History: Composition

Four holograph manuscripts survive. The earliest is probably the sonnet in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence. The other three are: the fair copy in the “Love and Loss” triptych in the Ashley Library; the fair copy in the “Kelmscott Love Sonnets” sequence; and what was probably the 1881 printer's copy—the text in the Troxell composite “House of Life” sequence.

A fragment of verse in Notebook III (Duke University Library) may be related to the composition of this sonnet.

Printing History

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

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 26-1871.raw.xml