Dante Gabriel Rossetti

English poet, illustrator, painter, and translator (1828-1882)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (12 May 182810 April 1882) was an English poet, painter and translator.

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell
Dante Gabriel Rossetti by William Holman Hunt, 1883


  • I am not as these are, the poet saith
    In youth's pride, and the painter, among men
    At bay, where never pencil comes nor pem
    • from Not As These in The House of Life 1870 kindle ebook ASIN B0082R81E8
  • From perfect grief there need not be
    Wisdom or even memory;
    One thing then learned remains to me —
    The woodspurge has a cup of three.
  • Tell me now in what hidden way is
    Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
    Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
    Neither of them the fairer woman?
    Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
    Only heard on river and mere—
    She whose beauty was more than human?—
    But where are the snows of yester-year?
  • I have been here before,
    But when or how I cannot tell:
    I know the grass beyond the door,
    The sweet, keen smell,
    The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
  • If God in his wisdom have brought close
    The day when I must die,
    That day by water or fire or air
    My feet shall fall in the destined snare
    Wherever my road may lie.
    • The King's Tragedy, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Still we say as we go,—
    "Strange to think by the way
    Whatever there is to know,
    That shall we know one day."
    • The Cloud Confines, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Gather a shell from the strewn beach
    And listen at its lips: they sigh
    The same desire and mystery,
    The echo of the whole sea's speech.
    • The Sea-Limits, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "I send thee a shell from the ocean-beach; But listen thou well, for my shell hath speech. Hold to thine ear / And plain thou'lt hear / Tales of ships", Charles Henry Webb, With a Nantucket Shell; The hollow sea-shell, which for years hath stood / On dusty shelves, when held against the ear / Proclaims its stormy parent, and we hear / The faint, far murmur of the breaking flood. / We hear the sea. The Sea? It is the blood / In our own veins, impetuous and near", Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Sonnet. Sea-shell Murmurs'.
  • Was it a friend or foe that spread these lies?
    Nay, who but infants question in such wise,
    'T was one of my most intimate enemies.
    • Fragment, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • If the light is
    It is because God said 'Let there be light.'
    • At Sunrise, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Thou fill'st from the wingèd chalice of the soul
    Thy lamp, O Memory, fire-wingèd to its goal.
    • Mnemosyne, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The blessed damozel lean'd out
    From the gold bar of Heaven;
    Her eyes were deeper than the depth
    Of waters still'd at even;
    She had three lilies in her hand,
    And the stars in her hair were seven.
    • Stanza 1.
  • Around her, lovers, newly met
    'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
    Spoke evermore among themselves
    Their heart-remember'd names;
    And the souls mounting up to God
    Went by her like thin flames.
    • Stanza 7.
  • From the fix'd place of Heaven she saw
    Time like a pulse shake fierce
    Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
    Within the gulf to pierce
    Its path; and now she spoke as when
    The stars sang in their spheres.
  • The sun was gone now; the curl'd moon
    Was like a little feather
    Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
    She spoke through the still weather.
    Her voice was like the voice the stars
    Had when they sang together.
  • We two will stand beside that shrine,
    Occult, withheld, untrod,
    Whose lamps are stirr'd continually
    With prayer sent up to God;
    And see our old prayers, granted, melt
    Each like a little cloud.
  • We two will lie i' the shadow of
    That living mystic tree
    Within whose secret growth the Dove
    Is sometimes felt to be,
    While every leaf that His plumes touch
    Saith His Name audibly.

The House of Life (1870—1881)

Full text online
  • A Sonnet is a moment's monument,—
    Memorial from the Soul's eternity
    To one dead deathless hour.
    • Introductory Sonnet.
  • At length their long kiss severed, with sweet smart:
    And as the last slow sudden drops are shed
    From sparkling eaves when all the storm has fled,
    So singly flagged the pulses of each heart.
    • Nuptial Sleep.
  • Beauty like hers is genius.
    • Genius in Beauty.
  • Even as the moon grows queenlier in mid-space
    When the sky darkens, and her cloud-rapt car
    Thrills with intenser radiance from afar,—
    So lambent, lady, beams thy sovereign grace
    When the drear soul desires thee.
    • Gracious Moonlight.
  • And Love, our light at night and shade at noon,
    Lulls us to rest with songs, and turns away
    All shafts of shelterless tumultuous day.
    • Heart's Haven.
  • Each hour until we meet is as a bird
    That wings from far his gradual way along
    The rustling covert of my soul.
    • Winged Hours.
  • Sometimes thou seem'st not as thyself alone,
    But as the meaning of all things that are.
    • Heart's Compass.
  • Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
    I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.
  • When all desire at last and all regret
    Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
    What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
    And teach the unforgetful to forget?
    • Newborn Death.

The Choice

  • Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
    Surely the earth, that's wise being very old,
    Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
    Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
    May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,
    Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
    We'll drown all hours: thy song, while hours are toll'd,
    Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
  • Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
    My own high-bosom'd beauty, who increase
    Vain gold, vain lore, and yet might choose our way!
    Through many years they toil; then on a day
    They die not, — for their life was death, — but cease;
    And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
  • Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth: can I
    Or thou assure him of his goal? God's breath
    Even at this moment haply quickeneth
    The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
    Though screen'd and hid, shall walk the daylight here.
  • Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die
    Outstretch'd in the sun's warmth upon the shore,
    Thou say'st: "Man's measur'd path is all gone o'er:
    Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
    Man clomb until he touch'd the truth; and I,
    Even I, am he whom it was destin'd for."
    How should this be? Art thou then so much more
    Than they who sow'd, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
  • Nay, come up hither. From this wave-wash'd mound
    Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
    Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
    Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
    And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
    Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.

Quotes about Rossetti

  • Rossetti makes the remark somewhere, bitterly but with great truth, that the worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
    • G. K. Chesterton in St. Francis of Assisi (1923), p. 88; "The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank" has now become widely quoted as a statement of Rossetti, but without citation of a source, and there seems to be no publication of such a statement earlier than this one of Chesterton, which could be in some ways erroneous, as he himself does not cite a source.
  • Dante Gabriel Rosetti
    Buried all of his libretti,
    Thought the matter over—then
    Went and dug them up again.
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