Filii Filia

Alternately titled: For an Annunciation. Early German
Alternately titled: Returning to Brussels

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1847
Genre: poem group

General Description of

Date: 1847
Rhyme: abbaabbacdecde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet

General Description of

Date: 1849
Rhyme: abbaabbaccdcede
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Delaware Art Museum Manuscript.

Scholarly Commentary


DGR never published these two sonnets, either separately or together. WMR first published them as distinct works, which in their initial composition they were. The first is the earlier, having been written in 1847; the second was written in 1849 in Belgium when DGR was traveling with Holman Hunt. The first sonnet is thus the earliest example we have of one of DGR's most characteristic literary forms—the sonnet “for” a picture. WMR said that his brother wrote it about a painting he had seen “in an auction-room” (see WMR's note to the (1911) text of the first sonnet, which he published by itself in 1886 under the title “For an Annunciation. Early German”. WMR published the second as “Returning to Brussells”—part of the sequence he constructed from DGR letters and manuscripts under the title “A Trip to Paris and Belgium”.

It is interesting that DGR did not include these sonnets among the Sonnets for Pictures he published in The Germ in 1850, or indeed in any of the later groupings similarly titled. But in 1881, when he was preparing his 1881 Poems. A New Edition for the presss, he considered including both sonnets as a joined pair—a striking idea given their disjunctive compositional relation. As the paired title “Filii Filia” suggests, the significance of the sonnets gets shifted and augmented when they are joined together.

Textual History: Composition

The only surviving manuscript of the sonnet pair is in the Delaware Art Museum library; it dates from 1881. The second sonnet exists in an early manuscript version in DGR's letter to his brother of 18 October 1849.

Printing History

The two sonnets have not been published as a unit until now, although they were first printed in the first revise proof of Signature T of the 1881 Poems. A New Edition. DGR removed them from the book in the next revise proof stage.

The second sonnet was first published by WMR in its earlier (1849) variant form under the title “Returning to Brussels” (see Family Letters (II. 79)), and collected thereafter. The first was also printed posthumously (in 1886) by WMR under the title “For an Annunciation. Early German”.


The painting referenced in the first sonnet has not been identified. It seems clear that WMR knew what the picture was, given his 1886 title for the first sonnet.


The sonnets clearly have a close relation to the sonnets on “Mary's Girlhood”.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 4-1847.raw.xml