The Morrow's Message

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1869
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ 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.

Scholarly Commentary


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” (WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 205 ).

Textual History: Composition

“Before mid-Autumn 1869” (Peattie, Letters of William Michael Rossetti 7 ; but it would have been written before August 1869, for it is printed in the Penkill Proofs for the 1870 volume.

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.

Textual History: Revision

The text as first set in type in the Penkill Proofs for the 1870 volume does not change thereafter.

Printing History

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 1881.


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 “shadow” (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.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 9-1869.raw.xml