Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Letter to Thomas Hake 22 Sept 1871
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1871 September 22
Type of Manuscript: fair copy
Scribe: DGR

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.


22 September [1871]

My dear Hake,
I fear I must have seemed neglectful since getting your last two MS. poems, but I have been taken up in fact with my own like commodity. On the whole I think “Forget-Me-Not” preferable probably to the “Forest Tomb,” as getting rid of the more awkward part of the narrative element; but I suspect time might be better spent (to speak frankly) than in attempting to bring either of them to the standard of the “Blind Boy.” “Old Morality” is quite on another level of execution and ranks with the “B. B.” for terseness and limpidity though of course not possessing the same kind of charm. I will go over it again and tattoo it (with your presumed leave) if anything occurs to me. My first impression on finishing it was that so much dry quaintness and epigrammatic suggestion rather needed a clearer point to which they might all converge. The identities both of Death and Old Morality are somewhat vague, and their relation to the highly realized Sexton puzzling. Of course I know that this is partly intentional but I hardly think the working out is yet a perfect success, though the style is excellent. However further reading may perhaps bring new lights with it.
I have finished “ Rose Mary” (the Beryl poem) which makes three parts — in all 160 stanzas. I read with much interest the extracts from Dana you so kindly sent me, though at so advanced a stage of the poem I could not have benefited much by anything of the kind. On the whole I think the correspondence with fact is fair enough, considering that magic qualities also attach to the particular Beryl in question. The striated appearance spoken of struck me. Does it mean striped or ribbed? I suppose the former probably. It is curious that among rejected lines in the draft of my description I find one saying
“Ribbed it was as the sunk sands be.”
Your suggestion based on the results of heating the beryl is an excellent one had it fitted in with my plot which is rather a sensational one. Here is a stanza rather in your vein I think, where the heroine is recovering from a swoon —
  • A swoon that breaks is the whelming wave
  • When help comes late but still can save.
  • With all blind throes is the instant rife,—
  • Hurtling clangour and clouds at strife,—
  • The breath of death, but the kiss of life.
As regards data, I was unlucky in beginning the poem in these wilds without any books of reference.
I quite feel the force of what you say about the "middle lights," and hope you will not think me horribly opinionated if I leave it nevertheless as it is — there seems to me a shade of sound lost by the alteration. Perhaps light being a generic term, the trinity of lights may be included.
I hardly think I shall outstay the end of the month here now, but am still uncertain. The poem has sadly taken me off some painting I brought with me and ought to have completed.
Morris only stayed a few days. I will convey your compliments to him on his return shortly. He is already deep in a new poem since coming from Iceland!
page: [4]
I have some sonnets lying under my eye and will copy one instead of tearing off the last leaf of this note.
Ever yours,

D. G. R.
“From Dawn to Noon.”

  • As the child knows not if his mother's face
  • Be fair; nor of his elders yet can deem
  • What each most is; but as of hill or stream
  • At dawn, all glimmering life surrounds his place:
  • Who yet, tow'rd noon of his half-weary race,
  • Pausing awhile beneath the high sun-beam
  • And gazing steadily back,—as through a dream,
  • In things long past new features now can trace:—
  • Even so the thought that is at length fullgrown
  • 10 Turns back to note the sun-smit paths, all grey
  • And marvellous once, where first it walked alone;
  • And haply doubts, amid the unblenching day,
  • Which most or least impelled its onward way,—
  • Those unknown things or these things overknown.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: dgr.ltr.0541.rad.xml
Copyright: By permission of the British Library.