Christopher Nasaar, St. Paul, Wordsworth, and
World's Worth, JPRAS n.s. 4 (spring 1995), 85-90
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.
The poem is a psychological portrait of a medieval monk. In
its first constitution (1849) DGR tied it to a specific place, and strongly suggested
a specific period as well: Ghent in the fourteenth century. The poem is plainly
a Pre-Raphaelite creation in its studious use of concrete detail, as well as in
its effort to develop a general statement about a certain period, place, and
cultural phenomenon. When DGR published the poem in the fourth number of
The Germ he titled it “Pax Vobis” and appended the subscription
“Ghent: Church of St. Bavon”. (DGR and Hunt must have visited the
medieval abbey church of St. Bavo in the east quarter of the city during their
visit to Ghent and Bruges.) In 1881 the title became “World's Worth”
and the subscription was deleted.
Swinburne, who thought highly of the poem, tried to persuade DGR to print it
in his 1870 Poems but he
did not succeed (see DGR's letter to Swinburne, 23 February 1870,
Correspondence, 70. 32
DGR probably wrote it in the fall of 1849, at or shortly after the
time he was in Ghent on his trip to Paris and Belgium with Holman Hunt. But it may
have been done a bit later, as a recollective piece; in any case, no later than
The only known manuscript is late, probably copied around 1879-80 by DGR for publication in his 1881 Poems. A New Edition
DGR heavily revised his early text of the poem when he was preparing
to publish it in his 1881 Poems. A New Edition. The Lilly Library manuscript was copy text for the latter.
Swinburne thought the piece “a lovely study of colour and
feeling...too subtly faithful and delicately fine in feeling and handling, to be
thrown over” (
First printed under the title “Pax Vobis” in
The Germ no. 4 (end of April 1850); reprinted in much revised
state in DGR's 1881 Poems. A New Edition.
Although not directly connected, the 1856 watercolour Fra Pace shares an underlying ethos with this poem
Nasaar reads the poem as an explicit critique of Wordsworth.