Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848; 1868 March (recovered)
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


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

Scholarly Commentary


When first composed, the sonnet formed a pair with the sonnet Compenso. There are multiple manuscript copies of both, though DGR left them unpublished.

Textual History: Composition

DGR dates this sonnet March 1868 in the cancelled Fitzwilliam Museum text but that date signals when he recovered the sonnet and thought to rework it for publication in his 1870 Poems. The sonnet, like its companion, was originally written in 1848 (see commentary for “Compenso”).

Printing History

Baum was the first to print a text of this work and its companion sonnet in 1931 in his Analytical List of Manuscripts in the Duke University Library, 53-54 .


O mouth that in the hour of desire

I have studied so often and gained peace,

how the many spirits of the fixated eye

kiss at all hours, and always my lip,— Ah, mouth, what pleasure I desire from you,

O what hope that would not fail,

or what smile like yours, tell me if it pleases you,

and what words, through the power of God's love? Alas poor hope! and how can I think

To join peace, with its closely folded wings,

to these twin smiling portals?

The more erotically intense each word

seems, alas the more it becomes for us

the source of the silence of death.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 48a-1869.raw.xml