Life the Beloved

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1873
Rhyme: abbaabbacdecde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 256

◦ Baum, ed., House of Life, 214-215

Scholarly Commentary


The sonnet's generalized comment on “Life” is keyed to DGR's personal recollection of his dead wife Elizabeth, whose burial (on 17 February 1862) is glanced at directly in lines 5-8 and 12-14. Following the example of Dante's Beatricean ideal, the sonnet represents DGR's dead wife as an emblem of a vital “new life”. In this respect the sonnet cuts directly across the dark bewilderment that has been such a dominant note in “The House of Life” (1881 version) since “Vain Virtues”. The sonnet is only a momentary event in the sequence, however—further bewilderments will come in the final five sonnets that follow it. Nonetheless, this momentariness cuts two ways, for it signals that all days are frail and fugitive (line 7), days of darkness as well as those (as here) that “Glow with fresh hours for hope to glorify” (line 11).

Textual History: Composition

Four integral manuscripts survive: a late fair copy by May Morris (with a DGR correction) in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence; a fair copy (perhaps printer's copy) in the Library of Congress; another fair copy in the Bodleian “Kelmscott Love Sonnets” gathering; and a fair copy in the Delaware Museum of Art library.

Printing History

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


The sonnet belongs to the spring of 1873 when DGR was at Kelmscott receiving a great many visitors. This fact is noteworthy because DGR had regained his spirits in this period—alas, too briefly. That this Kelmscott visit was not like the previous sojourn in 1871, when he and Jane Morris were immersed alone together in their love idyl, may well partly explain the tone and import of this sonnet.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 8-1873.raw.xml