‘The House of Life: 19. Silent Noon’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is a fourteen-line, non-traditional sonnet, that is divided into one set of eight lines, and one of six. The poem follows the rhyming pattern of abbaacca ddeffe.
This piece was published as a part of Rossetti’s set of poems, The House of Life. It was written between the years 1847 and 1881.
Explore The House of Life: 19. Silent Noon
The poem begins with the speaker stating a simple fact about his lover’s hand, that it appears to him like “rosy blooms” as it peeks through the long grass in which they are reclining. He can tell from her eyes that she, as he does, appreciates the peace of this moment. They both know that it is not going to last forever, but that only increases the beauty.
As the speaker describes their surroundings it is as if everything has been enhanced. The pasture is “gleam[ing] and gloom[ing]” as the clouds “scatter and amass” in front of the sun. The couple has buried themselves amongst the grasses, creating a sort of nest from which they are able to look out at the flowers and plants that surround them. The silence they are existing in is so still, it is like an hourglass.
In the second stanza, the speaker describes his appreciation for this moment. He and his lover “clasp” the time they have together to their chests and take none of it for granted. They know that soon it will be over and they will have to depart again. In the final lines, the speaker describes the presence of silence as being a physical representation of the love the two share.
Analysis of The House of Life: 19. Silent Noon
Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,—
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
‘Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
‘Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
The speaker of ‘The House of Life: 19. Silent Noon’ begins the poem by giving the reader an emotionally detailed description of his surroundings. The speaker thrusts the reader right into the middle of a tender moment between himself and his lover. The two are in the “long fresh grass” of a field. The grass is tall enough that is completely conceals them; from any distance, they would not be detected. This has created a patch of privacy in which the lovers might find peace.
The speaker describes the hands of his lover with one remarkable detail that magnifies the image, while also making perfect sense as it is fit into this short narrative. He sees her finger poking through the long grass that surrounds them and they appear to him to be like “rosy blooms.” Their light pink color stands out amongst the green grass. Her eyes, when he beholds them, seem to be filled with the peace of the moment. This is the same emotion that he is experiencing and he is relishing seeing it in her eyes.
The pasture in which they are reclining is spread out under skies that are “billowing” with clouds that come together and “scatter” as the wind moves them. All of this plays out above their heads as the field “gleams and glooms” with the changing intensity of the sun. The lovers are buried in “their nest” and all-around then are fields of “golden kingcup” and “cow-parsely.” This beautiful image is almost perfectly still, like an hourglass, but in the background, even more quietly, time is moving.
Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:—
So this wing’d hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.
In the second stanza of this sonnet, the speaker continues his narrative description of what he and his lover are experiencing. “Deep” within the “nest” that they are in, fly the dragonflies. They appear to “Hang” above the lovers like “blue thread” that has been dropped down from the sky.
Their flight and appearance are compared to the miracle of the “inarticulate hour” in which the two lovers are spending together. It is simple, but remarkable in its brevity and peace. They know that the moment they are sharing is special and is doing everything they can to make the most of it. They have “clasp[ed]” the “wing’d hour” to their “hearts” and will keep it with them for the rest of the time.
The final two lines of the poem describe how the time they are spending together, and the silence in which they are existing, is itself like “the song of love.” The peace of their happiness and togetherness, speaks of love itself.
About Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born in 1828 in London, England to Italian parents. When he was young, Rossetti hoped to become a painter and was, along with his siblings, a very talented child. After school Rossetti apprenticed to the painter Ford Madox Brown, as well as independently extending his knowledge and love for literature.
Rossetti is most well-known for his founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, along with a number of other painters. These men shared an interest in poetry and distaste for conventions of Fine Art. Another, and perhaps the best known, member of the group, was John Everett Millais who would become the president of the Royal Academy in London. In the late 1840s, while starting to exhibit his paintings, Rossetti met an Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal who would work as one of his models, and eventually become his wife. She committed suicide in 1862 after losing a child. Rossetti buried the only finished manuscript of his poems along with her body.
Rossetti never completely recovered from “Lizzie’s” death, but his reputation was growing. After her death, Rossetti moved to Chelsea where he began a “more aesthetic and sensuous approach to art.” He no longer painted the themes from the literature he’d loved as a child, but now focused on painting his mistresses. He had published a book of translations, The Early Italian Poets, in 1860 and during this time turned once more to poetry and decided to exhume his manuscript from Elizabeth Siddal’s grave. These poems were published in 1870 under the title, Poems. In 1872 his health began to fail and he spent his time as an invalid in his home in Chelsea. Rossetti died in 1882 after his health took a turn for the worse.