To every heart which the sweet pain doth move

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.12-17 (II. 22-31) .

◦ De Robertis ed., Vita Nuova, 41-43


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the The Early Italian Poets text..

Scholarly Commentary


Dante's sonnet, an early work (ca. 1283) written before the Vita Nuova was conceived, functions as a singular prophetic moment in Dante's autobiography exactly because of that historical/biographical fact. The poem opens the sequence of imbedded poems and so announces, both within and prior to Dante's book of memory, the imperative presence of Love in his life. When Dante places it in the Vita Nuova its orbit of relevance, as it were, expands drastically. Not often observed of Dante's poem is the subtle way in which it suggests a parallel between Dante's vision and Annunciation scenes. DGR was fascinated by the magical character of the Annunciation, as all his works, textual as well as pictorial, indicate.

The sonnet was “answered” by several of Dante's friends and acquaintances, as Dante's immediately succeeding note indicates, but placed in the autobiography the sonnet is in effect being answered and re-interpreted by Dante himself.

DGR exploits that original Dantean situation in his translation, which now stands as a translation in an analogous relation to nineteenth-century English readers. The translation is an index of a kind of mystery needing “true interpretation and kind thought” from DGR's contemporaries who try to make contact with a source of poetic inspiration. Dante's friends answered his sonnet with responsive interpretive sonnets. DGR's translation thus becomes a model for contemporary readers and poets. The structure of thought is precisely what Pound will follow in his “translational” approach to the cultural heritage he sought to recover.

DGR's translation exhibits some of his typical transformations, starting with the slight alteration of the sestet's rhyme scheme. Also, lines 3, 6-7, and 12 all make notable semantic departures from Dante's text. The octave variances, which expand Dante's thought beyond the literal Italian, seem clear attempts to render tonal qualities in the original—a certain decorous formality that pervades and indeed distinguishes Dante's style. The departure in line 12 involves a subtraction: DGR refuses to translate one of Dante's words, “ardendo”. The decision is hard to understand or justify given the importance of the word in the sonnet.

DGR's source text was “A ciascun'alma presa e gentil core” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

This is an early translation, in the 1840s, perhaps as early as 1846.

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: 44d-1861.raw.xml