WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 197
Baum, ed., House of Life
The brilliant “pre-raphaelite” simile that opens the sestet defines why this sonnet is anything but a descriptive nature piece. The lovers are immersed in the heart of their loving and as such are not in but “out of” nature. This is the place cited as the “bower of unimagined flower and tree” in the earlier sonnet “Love's Lovers”.
Much admired, the sonnet has been set to music at least three times.
Initially composed in 1871 when DGR was at Kelmscott with Jane Morris, the sonnet was later rebuilt through DGR's notebooks, which contain a series of fragmentary draft texts of various parts of the poem (see notebook 1 and notebook 2 in the British Library (the latter with texts at folios
3v, 4r, and 15r; and
notebook 2 at Duke). Two complete holograph draft texts are housed in the Rosenbach Library, one of these the copy-text of the other. These are the earliest manuscripts. The Fitzwilliam composite manuscript of “The House of Life” has two copies, a corrected draft just subsequent to the Rosenbach manuscripts, and a fair copy with further corrections (here it was given its received title after passing through the titles “Silence” and “The Silent Hour”). A second fair copy is included in the Princeton composite “House of Life”. The sestet of the sonnet was altered drastically sometime between the scripting of the Rosenbach texts and the Fitzwilliam draft. This important revision emerged through DGR's notebook writings.
No text of the poem appears in the “Kelmscott Love Sonnets” manuscript, but it is likely that the early version of the poem was originally in the group. The book has several pages torn from it.
First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.