Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.
Like The Honeysuckle and The Sea-Limits, both of which employ the same meter scheme, the poem is a parable.
In this case the subject is not love, as in The Honeysuckle, but mortality.
Composed in November 1850 when DGR had gone to Sevenoaks to paint with Hunt
and Stephens. The fair copy manuscript in the Fitzwilliam
Museum was copied in the summer of 1869 when DGR was beginning preparations
for the publication of what would be his 1870 volume of Poems.
First printed as part of the pre-publication process for the 1870 Poems, in the Penkill Proofs, August 1869. Those proofs have
no special organization of the poetic units. At the next proof stage, the
so-called A Proofs (Sept. 1869), this poem
is placed in a loosely organized section under the heading Sonnets and Songs, Towards a Work to be Called
The House of Life. DGR experimented with the order of this section until, in the
final proof stage (realized at the beginning of March, 1870) and then in the first edition, this poem and
ten others were grouped as The House of Life's integral section of Songs. In the 1881 Poems. A New Edition, this section is detached from The House of Life and placed under the heading Lyrics, and two other poems are added to the group.
A Victorian Romantic
,105) reads the poem as “an unconscious or
semi-conscious expression of the growing sex-urge of [DGR's]
adolescence. That it was at least semi-conscious is suggested by the
fact that a little later, in “Love's Nocturn”, he again, and consciously, used the fir-wood as a symbol of