Woe's me by dint of all these sighs that come

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


“Introduction to Part II” (in Early Italian Poets) 189-193

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.94-95 (II. 151-152) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 235-236 .


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

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet's principal object is to dramatize that Dante has restored integrity and control to his writing, after his troubled passage through the Donna della Finestra texts. DGR underscores Dante's poetic purpose by overtranslating, as it were, the first two lines of the sestet. Besides introducing the wordplay “musings” (for Dante's “penseri”), DGR works Dante's text in several other important ways. Dante, for example, argues no causal relation between his “penseri” and his “sospir”, as DGR does, nor is there any Dantean equivalent for DGR's “constant” (line 10). But of course DGR is quite correct to make his translation insist on both of these points, for they are fundamental to Dante's general argument, even if they don't get articulated specifically at this point. The lines give a clear view of how DGR will seize any good opportunity to render Dante's thought as faithfully as possible, even if it means departures from immediate literality, as here.

The phrase “These musings” torques DGR's sonnet into a sharply reflexive condition, an effect heightened by the way DGR multiplies suggestive connections by, in effect, rhyming “musings” with “Hearing” and thus building a clear structural parallel between the two final tercets. These formal relationships emphasize the agenting power of Dante's (and DGR's) verse and forecast the next chapter in the autobiography with its accompanying sonnet addressed to the “pilgrim-folk” passing through Florence. For while the sonnet says that Beatrice's “sweet name” (line 13) is heard “continually” in the poet's musings and sighs, we search the text in vain for visible or articulate signs of her. And it is quite the purpose of this sonnet to lead its readers to scrutinize the text vainly for these signs. The name will come, unlooked for, in the next sonnet, generated from the desire expressed and brought to focus in this one.

DGR's source text was “Lasso! per forza de'molti sospiri” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

An early work, 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: 51d-1861.raw.xml