You that thus wear a modest countenance

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


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

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.66-67 (II. 109-110) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 148-149 .

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet forms a pair with the next, “Canst thou indeed be he that still would sing”. As Dante's prose commentary indicates, they illustrate the poetic style Dante announced in “Ladies that have intelligence in love” and the prose accompanying that canzone. The sonnets are struck in that “second person” style that supplies so much discretion to Dante's poetry, and that translates into DGR's own special kind of poetic impersonality.

Reading these sonnets after the preceding “My lady carries love within her eyes” one realizes why Shelley (in his “Defence of Poetry”) referred to the corpus of poetry as a sisterhood of ladies. “O women, help to praise her in somewise”: that line in the previous sonnet calls at some level to poetry and poems as if they possessed an existence independent of their nominal author. The ladies that have intelligence in love are figured in and as Dante's poems, which mirror those ladies.

DGR's source text was “Voi che portate la sembianza umile” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

This is an early translation, in the 1840s, perhaps as early as 1846.

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: 53d-1861.raw.xml