Sunday Morning. Catholic Church

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849?
Rhyme: varying
Meter: iambic trimeter and tetrameter
Genre: dramatic monologue


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


This is one of several important and recently discovered early DGR poems. Its companion piece is another dramatic monologue, “Sunday Morning: Protestant Church”, which is fair copied after this dramatic monologue on the only known manuscript. Almost as closely related is anothere dramatic monologue, “Johannes Ronge”. All three are imagined in the voice of a contemporary English woman whose religious impulses and desires have been thrown into confusion by the rival claims and deficiencies of Catholicism, Protestantism, and an enlightened Rationalism. A fourth dramatic monologue in the same sequence of early poems, “Dominus Fredericus (Rich Peace)”, is spoken by Frederick II of Sicily and represents the forecast of a spiritual dispensation that will resolve these conflicts and tensions.

This poem and its companion piece are clearly influenced by DGR's discovery and reading of Blake. They deliver a pastiche of the naive style of the lyric verse that DGR found in the Blake notebook he purchased in 1847. He made a transcript of what he judged “All that is of any worth” in the notebook, and it is probably this selection that best illustrates the style he wanted to imitate here. The decision to map this style of address to the voice of a young woman is quite an arresting move because DGR explicitly frames the monologue in allegorical terms: the speaker has three “loves”, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Rationalism, each of whom fails her in some way. The young woman is thus cast as a symbolic figure—indeed, as the initial type of that Victorian Beatrice who would assume so many forms in DGR's art and poetry alike.

The poems are closely related to the pair of sonnets he wrote for his sisters around 1848, “The Church Porches”.

The final line of this poem is uncertain; the antepenultimate word is undreadable.

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. A slightly later date is perhaps more likely. The poem is written on the same pale blue paper as “Johannes Ronge” and “Dominus Fredericus (Rich Peace)”.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 57-1849.raw.xml