Love's pallor and the semblance of deep ruth

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.92-93 (II. 146-147) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 222-224 .

Scholarly Commentary


See the commentary for “Mine eyes beheld the blessed pity spring”, where the issues central to this sonnet are taken up. DGR's translation captures reasonably well the central force of Dante's original sonnet, where the poet finds himself caught in an ambiguous spiritual and emotional position. The ambiguity defines a point of confusion meant to serve an enlightening function, and this sonnet brings that situation into sharpest focus, particularly in the final line. For the line does not explain clearly why the poet cannot weep. One is meant to infer that it might be so because the donna is usurping the place of Beatrice in the poet's affections, which is what the heart warns the eyes in the next sonnet. But the sonnet after that one suggests a very different meaning: that the eyes do not weep because they somehow understand, from the new donna's image, that Beatrice remains an active if unseen and absent presence in his spiritual life.

Dante's sonnets signal these connections through several important purely verbal repetitions. DGR's translations do not follow the originals in these respects but instead make the point by trying to clarify the poet's psychology. The translations are thus fairly free renderings of the originals. One can discern DGR's purposes most plainly in the free rendering of lines 1-2 of “A gentle thought there is will often start”, and in particular in the phrase “secret self”, which has no equivalent in Dante.

DGR's source text was “Color d'amore, e di pietà sembianti” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

Presumably an early translation, late 1840s.

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: 29d-1861.raw.xml