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      Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

                    Sudden Light

          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.

          You have been mine before,—
              How long ago I may not know:
          But just when at that swallow's soar
              Your neck turned so,
    Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

          Has this been thus before?
              And shall not thus time's eddying flight
          Still with our lives our love restore
              In death's despite,
    And day and night yield one delight once more?


Sudden Light was written in 1853 or 1854 (according to Rees), and first published in 1863 in Poems: An Offering to Lancashire. It appeared with two distinctly different final stanzas, both of which can be found in the Doughty's edition (referenced below). The above version is the later one, as it appeared in the 1881 Poems.  A New Edition.

The older final stanza, as found in the 1870 edition of Poems, is:

          Then, now,—perchance again! . . . .
              O round mine eyes your tresses shake!
          Shall we not lie as we have lain
              Thus for Love's sake,
    And sleep, and wake, yet never break the chain?

In the 1870 text, Sudden Light appeared as Song IV (in addition to the title) along with fifty sonnets and ten other 'Songs' in a section titled: Sonnets and Songs towards a work to be called 'The House of Life'. The final version of The House of Life consisted of 101 sonnets (without the songs, but with an introduction) in two sections. It was also published in 1881, in a volume titled Ballads and Sonnets.


  • Rees, Joan. The Poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Modes of Self-Expression. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
  • Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. Poems. London: F. S. Ellis, 33 King Street, Covent Garden, 1870.
  • Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. Poems (A New Edition). London: Ellis & White, 29 Bond Street, 1881.
  • Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. Poems. Oswald Doughty, ed. London: J.M. Dent & Sons LTD, 1957.