It is striking that DGR approaches the close of his volume with a poem that
takes such a light and (in his brother's terms)
“playful” attitude. Nevertheless, DGR's
sonnet makes a clear reflexive turn on the volume as a whole, as the poem's
central game—the literalization of the
“similes” (line 3) in four subsequent instances
The moon in the poem represents, of course, the poetic imagination. Her easy
relations with her poet, as here represented, literalize the idea
of “sweet companionships” touched in
the preceding sonnet (“Beauty and the Bird”), and recurred to throughout the volume. DGR's light tone here
intimates that the spirit presiding over his work, and its future promise,
need not be imagined in fearful terms. Lines 9-10, recalling as they do
Coleridge's “Rime of the
Ancient Mariner” (lines 446-451), emphasize the illusory character of the dark
“shadow[s]” often evoked in the volume.
The closing lines of the poem recapitulate, in a tone we have not before
registered, a familiar motif in the book: the double nature of the poet's
beloved (and desire)—Soul's Beauty and Body's Beauty.
According to WMR (1911)
the poem was written in 1854. Three manuscripts survive: a corrected fair
copy in the Huntington Library (the earliest manuscript); another
fair copy in the Fitzwilliam Museum; and a fair
copy at Princeton.
The text in the A2
Proofs underwent only one revision before it was
published in the 1870 Poems — in line 6, "liquorish" was changed to "vapourish." Thereafter the text did not change. The manuscript in the
Princeton-Taylor collection was either printer's copy or the copy from which
printer's copy was made.
First printed in the A2
Proofs in September 1869; DGR hesitated about including it in the
1870 volume. On 14 September 1869 he wrote his brother that
“I have now included two old sonnets ‘Autumn Idleness’ and ‘A Match with the Moon’. The first as now revised I like well. The second I like too,
but do you think it lays itself open to ridicule?” (Fredeman,
WMR replied that he found “nothing
exceptionable” in the poem's “playful
quaintness”, and so DGR kept the poem (Peattie,
Letters of William Michael Rossetti,
). DGR reprinted it in his 1881 New Edition and it was collected thereafter.
The autobiographical elements of the three previous poems in the volume, and
especially of “Beauty and the Bird” (immediately preceding), incline one to see a glancing reference to
DGR's dead wife in the closing lines of the sonnet.