The pattern of indentation in the sonnets of "The House of Life" sometimes seem keyed to the rhyme scheme. Examples include: "Sonnet II: Bridal Birth", "Sonnet V: Heart's Hope", and "Sonnet VIII: Love's Lovers". In each of these the indentation pattern consistently reflects the rhyme scheme, even though each poem differs in how it groups the rhymes. Many other sonnets in the set, however, do not exhibit this property, especially in the second six lines.
Look at the Sonnet XXVI: Mid-Rapture:
Thou lovely and beloved, thou my love;
Whose kiss seems still the first; whose summoning eyes,
Even now, as for our love-world's new sunrise,
Shed very dawn; whose voice, attuned above
All modulation of the deep-bowered dove,
Is like a hand laid softly on the soul;
Whose hand is like a sweet voice to control
Those worn tired brows it hath the keeping of: —
What word can answer to thy word; — what gaze
To thine, which now absorbs within its sphere
My worshiping face, till I am mirrored there
Light-circled in a heaven of deep-drawn rays?
What clasp, what kiss mine inmost heart can prove,
O lovely and beloved, O my love?
(1) The terminating rhymes of second stanza's second and third lines are near rhymes, both of which continue to the next line without a punctuation break as part of the four-line phrase beginning with "what gaze". What is the effect of these near-rhymes on the whole phrase? Do they serve to break up or reinforce the flow of the four-line phrase?
(2) The last three lines of the poem seem to break the pattern of indentation and rhyming because "rays" in the first of the three lines rhymes with "gaze" in the first line of the stanza, while the second and third lines terminate with near rhymes, and the third line's terminating word, which is the final line of the sonnet, repeats the terminating word of the sonnet's first line - "love". Does the identical indentation — the same for these three lines — combined with the apparent rhyming anomalies serve any useful function in the poem, or does it reflect a poetic lapse?
Images and Metaphors
(3) In the first six lines of the first stanza, Rossetti appeals to three different senses — vision, hearing, and touch — by word meanings and sounds. The last two lines, however, are startling in the mixing of metaphor and tone. What is going on here? Whose hand is it? The soul? The voice? The lover? Why does Rossetti describe himself as having "worn tired brows"? Why use the word "control?" Does this anticipate the changes that occur as the sonnet cycle continues?
(4) The first stanza does not terminate but continues into the second stanza. Why? How does the use of "word" fit into the framework set up in the first stanza? How does the image depicted in the four-line phrase starting with "what gaze" relate to the images of the first stanza?
Last modified 26 October 2003