◦ Gregory II. 123
DGR's song begins by quoting the first song fragment
sung by Ophelia when she enters in scene 5 Act IV of Hamlet “distracted, with her hair down, playing on a lute”. DGR
“ends” Ophelia's song in two senses:
first, because in the original play it is a song fragment; and second,
because in DGR's text Ophelia intimates the corresponding madness that
lies in store for the betraying man. The final two lines of the song
sketch the figure of a man haunted by the presence of his dead love. The
figure is nightmarish—a figure of literal possession.
WMR dates the song “before mid-autumn 1869”
Life and Works of DGR,
) and simply “1869” in
. There is
no evidence to explain these dates. A holograph manuscript is extant that was printer's copy for the Penkill Proofs' text of the poem.
The poem was first printed as part of the
prepublication texts that DGR put together in 1869, as a prelude
to the publication of the 1870
Poems. It was printed in August
in the Penkill Proofs, where
it formed part of the section of The House of Life poems. DGR moved
the poem to the opening part of his evolving Poems volume as the prepublication
text moved into the A Proofs for the first edition in early September
1870. The poem was first published in the first edition.
DGR executed a drawing (1858) and
a watercolor (1866) of Hamlet and
The song represents, implictly, an interpretation of
was one of DGR's favorite works. But that interpretation—which argues that Hamlet's fate follows upon his cruel treatment of Ophelia—inevitably produces a personal contemporary application for DGR, whose guilt about his wife was deep.