Johannes Ronge

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849?
Rhyme: couplet
Meter: iambic tetrameter
Genre: dramatic monologue


◦ Johannes Rönge, The Autobiography and Justification of Johannes Von Ronge

◦ Johannes Rönge, The holy coat of Treves, and the new German-Catholic church


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the South African National Gallery manuscript .

Scholarly Commentary


One of several important and recently discovered early DGR poems, this piece is an encomium to the excommunicated priest from Prussian Silesia, Johannes Von Rönge (1813-1887), who became active in the Christian kindergarten movement and who, with his wife Bertha, opened the first kindergarten in England in 1851. Outraged at the corruption of the bishop of Trier and the Catholic Church generally, he broke away and founded his own church of so-called New Catholics. It was democratically organized and pursued a “rational religion”, throwing off many key Romish practices, including priestly celibacy, oral confession, and indulgences. After his excommunication in 1844, he and his wife Bertha moved to London. They were intimate with the Rossetti household and obviously shared many of the anti-papal atitudes of Gabriele Rossetti. Always politically active, Von Rönge worked for the failed revolution in Germany in 1848, after which he helped to coordinate various dissident groups into a single community of “Free Thinkers” (Freireligiöse).

The poem is a dramatic monologue spoken by an English woman whose religious impulses and desires have gone unsatisfied until she discovers Von Rönge's (1846) autobiography. The naive style of the poem is interesting and suggests that DGR may be using Blake, in particular the Songs of Innocence , as an index of the woman's character; and Browning, as a model for shaping a poem's style to match the psychology of the speaker (see the commentary for the related early dramatic monologue “Dominus Fredericus (Rich Peace)”).

The poem is closely related to a number of significant early DGR writings only recovered in 2006 from manuscripts in South Africa. The most important of these works is the Joachimite dramatic monologue “Dominus Fredericus (Rich Peace)” and the two closely related dramatic monologues “Sunday Morning. Catholic Church” and “Sunday Morning: Protestant Church”.

Textual History: Composition

The precise date of the poem is not known but the physical characteristics of the manuscript, the handwriting, and the subject matter make it an early work. It could have been written as early as 1847, when DGR first became acquainted with Blake's work (a year after the publication of the translation of Rönge's autobiography, which the speaker has read “with heart elate” (line 3). A slightly later date is perhaps more likely. The poem is written on the same pale blue paper as “Dominus Fredericus (Rich Peace)”

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 56-1849.raw.xml