Dante Alighieri. “Sonnet (to Giovanni Quirino). He answers the foregoing Sonnet (by Quirino); saying what he feels at the approach of Death.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


◦ DeRobertis and Contini eds., Dante. Opere Minori 284

Scholarly Commentary


This final sonnet in The Early Italian Poets is now regarded as at best a dubious work by Dante, though it was printed as Dante's in DGR's source text, Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri (I. 160). DGR clearly places it here, as his note to the poem suggests, to culminate the implicit argument that runs through the whole of DGR's book of translations.

The sonnet's significance is closely bound up with the preceding sonnet by Giovanni Quirino, to which this is a response. The argument of Quirino's poem is that Dante's exemplary work throws his own into eclipse, not least of all because Quirino's belated world seems bereft of Dante's ideal visions. One can hardly fail to see how DGR is using Quirino's sonnet as a premonitory comment on DGR's mid-Victorian circumstances: the Quirino sonnet clearly has much in common with such DGR poems as “On Refusal of Aid between Nations” (written about the same time as this translation).

In this context, then, DGR uses the Dantescan response sonnet to reaffirm a commitment to ideal values. Dante himself, in the myth DGR is recapitulating here, has experienced the full force of the power of a corrupted world. “At the approach of Death”, however, as the sonnet argues, the great Florentine urges Quirino to resist the despair that looms at him through his circumstances.

Textual History: Composition

An early translation, probably 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: 45d-1861.raw.xml