A Match with the Moon

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1854
Rhyme: abbaaccadeedff
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet

Scholarly Commentary


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 —shows unmistakeably.

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.

Textual History: Composition

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 corrected fair copy in the Fitzwilliam Museum; and a fair copy at Princeton.

Textual History: Revision

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.

Printing History

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, Correspondence, 69.154 ). 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, 231 ). 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.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 5-1854.raw.xml