Baum, The House of Life, 118-119
WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 208
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1870 Poems First Edition text.
Baum says that “the sonnet as a whole expresses
[the poet's] dejection and despair of the future” (see Baum,
The House of Life, 119
), but this seems entirely too strong. The use of Dante and
Cavalcanti is a notable feature of the sonnet, and it underscores the equivocal
message being offered in the sestet.
In the 1881 sequence the sonnet calls back to the previous sonnet “Venus Victrix” (Sonnet XXXIII in the 1881
sequence), which deals with “the triune loveliness
divine” of a
Beloved who is “Una, Pallas, and Venus, all in one”
DGR as Designer and Writer,
“Before mid-Autumn 1869” (Peattie,
Letters of William Michael Rossetti
; but it would have been written before August 1869, for it is printed in the
Penkill Proofs for the
Two holograph copies with corrections are gathered in the Fitzwilliam composite manuscript of “The House of Life”: the first fair copy, and a second copy, also with corrections.
The text as first set in type in the Penkill Proofs for the 1870 volume does not change thereafter.
First printed in mid-August 1869 as part of the
Penkill Proofs, the sonnet
remained in all proof stages and was published in the 1870 Poems and
thereafter. It is The
House of Life Sonnet XVIII in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet XXXVIII in
It is difficult not to read this sonnet, in particular the
sestet, as an interpretation of the sonnet by Cavalcanti,
“O tu che porti negli occhi sovente“
(“O thou that often hast within thine eyes”). In this respect it also carries forward the argument about Love (and Death) developed out of Dante's Vita Nuova in the
two previous sonnets of The House of Life sequence, “Life-in-Love” and “The Love Moon”.
The sonnet is not so directly autobiographical as many
others in the sequence, especially the (related) previous two sonnets.
Nonetheless, one of its key aesthetic features—its allusive
handling of the words “grey” (line 5) and
(line 14)—clearly has autobiographical connections. Indeed, in a
certain sense the effectiveness of these words fairly depends upon our
recognition of their oblique personal relations to the poet's wife: see “Love's Lovers”, line 13 and note.