First Fire

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1871; 1869 (possibly)
Rhyme: abbaaccadeedde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Wise, The Ashley Library, IX. 115-116

◦ Doughty 400-401, 688n


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Ashley Library text.

Scholarly Commentary


The poem is a companion piece to Last Fire, one of the so-called Kelmscott love sonnets DGR wrote in the summer of 1871. The poem was written to be included in an expanded version of The House of Life, as the Troxell manuscript shows, but its erotic frankness almost certainly led DGR to keep the poem back. Buchanan's notorious review attacking DGR's “fleshly” poetry, published in the fall of 1871, appeared only a few months after this sonnet was written, and caused DGR to remove Nuptial Sleep from his next edition of the sonnet sequence. If anything, “First Fire” would have seemed to Buchanan an even more outrageous work.

Though neither this sonnet nor its companion “Last Fire” appear among the Kelmscott love sonnets, but the stubs in that book indicate that they must originally have been written there. The fair copy in the Ashley collection is almost certainly the text that was in that book.

Textual History: Composition

Doughty (688n) dates this work 1869, but the manuscript in the Troxell Collection at Princeton indicates 1871 as the date of this work.

Textual History: Revision

DGR did not revise this poem for publication, but the surviving documents show alternate readings at different points.

Printing History

First published in 1960 by Doughty, Victorian Romantic, 400-401 .


Like the other erotic sonnets in The House of Life, this sonnet is a record of DGR's relations with Jane Morris.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 48-1871.raw.xml