Genius in Beauty

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1871
Rhyme: abbaaccadeedde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 196-197

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life, 91-92


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the The 1881 first edition of Ballads and Sonnets.

Scholarly Commentary


The sonnet follows thematically and stylistically upon the previous sonnet and clearly calls back to the earlier sonnet “The Portrait”. The relation is partly but significantly drawn by one of DGR's most characteristic (and most subtle) techniques: making a rhyme with equivalent but different words whose nuanced relation is, paradoxically, enhanced by being made so recondite. The word “compassed” (line 4) is rhyming with the word “compassionate” which dominates the opening of the earlier sonnet.

The intratextual relation of the two sonnets is crucial to see because we are to understand that the “love-spell” mentioned here (line 7) ultimately derives from the “Lord of all compassionate control”. This Lord is not DGR or the artist (he mentions three of the greatest, Homer, Dante, and Michelangelo, to underscore his point), nor is it the Beatricean woman. It is the god of Love, that is to say, a power that pervades all the agencies that function in this dynamic of love, including the objective work of art—picture or poem, as in this particular case. All of these agencies operate in a set of codependent relations, all cast (that is to say) their own particular love-spells.

Textual History: Composition

Three manuscripts survive: the corrected fair copy at Princeton, the May Morris copy in the Fitzwilliam composite manuscript, and the fair copy in the Bodleian “Kelmscott Love Sonnets” group.

Textual History: Revision

WMR suggested a pair of revisions, to line 6 and to line 12 (see the Brancroft proof with his marginal notes). DGR ignored both, though one or both have found their way into later editions. See below, textual notes.

Printing History

First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 6-1871.raw.xml