The sentiments felt on a wedding day are explored in "Sonnet VI: The Kiss" of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "The House of Life." The narrator considers with a sense of dread the withering of his love — his love meaning both the woman he loves and his own capacity to love. When the narrator says "even now", Rossetti is placing the poem at least somewhat in the present moment and playing with time and the way emotions can distort it. For example, dread can consume time and make an unpleasant future nearer, or a memory can make something pleasant in the past feel closer to the present moment.

For lo! even now my lady's lips did play
With these my lips such consonant interlude
As laurelled Orpheus longed for when he wooed
The half-drawn hungering face with that last lay.

I was a child beneath her touch, — a man
When breast to breast we clung, even I and she, —
A spirit when her spirit looked through me, —
A god when all our life-breath met to fan
Our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran,
Fire within fire, desire in deity.

The narrator's wife seems to fulfill many of his needs: she is varyingly a maternal figure, a lover, and an edifying presence that raises them both up. What does it mean for her to be a god?

This passage seems to suggest that love ends with the end of life. The time at which the breath of life no longer fans the red fire of vital blood here coincides with the death of love's passion. Is Rossetti making an argument against the notion of eternal love?

Rossetti's allusions to the story of Orpheus provide a sort of moral backdrop for the poem. Orpheus' plight is a warning that love and display of care can ultimately extinguish love's flame. Does Rossetti's use of words with musical meanings — "consonant" and "interlude" — the allusion to Orpheus, and the choice of saying "lips play" — which sounds like to play an instrument or to sing — add to the musicality of the poem? Is Rossetti drawing some parallel between the powers of fire and music in this poem?


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Last modified 28 October 2003