Mine eyes beheld the blessed pity spring

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


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

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.90-91 (II. 145-146) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 220-221 .

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet focuses the climactic sequence of the Vita Nuova, the episode of the Donna della Finestra (Chapters XXXV-XXXVIII), after which Dante turns back toward Beatrice with greater devotion than ever. In the narrative's final movement (Chapters XXXIX-XLII) Dante undergoes two successive visionary experiences, one of Beatrice, the second “wherein I saw things which determined me that I would say nothing further of this most blessed one, until such time as I could discourse more worthily concerning her” (Chapter XLII). This second (undisclosed) vision has always been taken to be a forecast of Dante's Commedia.

Read in a Rossettian perspective, the Donna della Finestra episode makes its own uncanny forecast. Its four sonnets—besides this one, the sonnets “Love's pallor and the semblance of deep ruth”, “The very bitter weeping that ye made”, and “A gentle thought there is will often start”—all carry themselves forward into the central texts of DGR's “House of Life”. The connection, as well as its difficult moral and psychic ambivalence, appears in an explicit way in line 11 of this sonnet. “Thine eyes' compassionate control” refers to the benignant look of the Donna della Finestra, but in “The House of Life” that phrase comes to announce “The Portrait” and countenance of the sequence's Beatrice figure, Elizabeth Siddal, not its Donna della Finestra, Jane Morris.

In the Donna della Finestra episode Dante represents a final struggle between his Soul and his Heart. This trial, for all the trouble it causes Dante, ultimately functions in a benevolent way in the economy of grace being celebrated in Dante's work. The benevolence appears in Chapter XXXIX as a condition of endless martyrdom for the soul whose commitments are ultimately toward divine realities; and the heart's Donna leads Dante to realize that martyrdom in the fullest possible way.

DGR of course understands this argument perfectly, as we see in his interpretive translation of the last two lines of this sonnet, which draw the expectable equations between the Donna, Beatrice, and Love. But the word “counterpart”—it has no Dantean equivalent—insinuates as well the set of distinctions and differences that Dante will also be working out through the whole of the Donna episode.

DGR's source text was “Videro gli occhi miei quanta pietate” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

An early work, 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: 30d-1861.raw.xml