Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Letter to James Smetham, August 10, 1868
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1868 August 10
Type of Manuscript: letter
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
16 Cheyne Walk
10 August 1868
My dear Smetham,
I never answered your former affectionate letter about my versicles quoted by Swinburne, and
now you send me a very fine poem of your own, written in good strong English and to noble
purpose. I admire it exceedingly, and cannot but conceive that such power of structural
execution must have resulted from considerable practice. You really should cultivate this vein
if opportunity offers, and bring out a little collection of such poetry.
I am just back from a few days spent at a friend's house in the country and shall probably be
going away again immediately. I must tell you that I have been a good deal out of sorts in
various ways lately, and still am. Therefore not much in the way of company at present, but
still hope we may see each other again at some favourable time for quiet talk.
Affectionately yours, D. G. Rossetti
P.S. I enclose copies of two sonnets which I need not trouble you to return. I want your
opinion as to which is the best of the three versions of the line about Art in the second
sonnet. I take a good deal of trouble with these things and have found it hard to please myself
with the line in question.
- Today Death seems to me an infant child
- Which her worn mother Life upon my knee
- Has set to grow my friend and play with me;
- If haply so my heart might be beguil'd
- To find no terrors in a face so mild;
- If haply so my weary heart might be
- Unto the newborn milky eyes of thee,
- O Death, before resentment reconcil'd.
- How long, O Death? and shall thy feet depart
10 Still a young child's with mine, or wilt thou stand
- Fullgrown the helpful daughter of my heart,
- What time with thee indeed I reach the strand
- Of the pale wave which knows thee what thou art,
- And drink it in the hollow of thy hand?
Note: Two variants for line 11 are included below the poem.
- And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,
- With whom, when our first heart beat full and fast,
- I wandered till the haunts of men were past,
- And in fair places found all bowers amiss
- Till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,
- While to the winds all thought of Death we cast:—
- Ah! Life, and must I have from thee at last
- No smile to greet me and no babe but this?
- Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose hair
10 Blew like a flower and blossomed like a wreath;
- And Art, whose eyes were as God's skies laid bare;
- These o'er the book of Nature mixed their breath
- With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them there:—
- And did these die that thou might'st bear me Death?
- And Art whose eyes were worlds by God found fair;
- Whose glance met God's and found Him fair
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