The epigraph cites 1.1.268-75 of King Lear. W. M. Rossetti wrote this poem during March 14-19, 1850, considering it a "nuisance" to have to write a poem whose sole purpose was to illustrate an etching by Ford Madox Brown. (The P.R.B. Journal, March 14, 1850.) Dante Rossetti had volunteered to write a poem illustrating the Brown etching, but later decided to attempt to prepare an etching of "Hand and Soul" for a subsequent number, and the task of writing the Cordelia poem was transferred to his brother. (The "Hand and Soul" etching never materialized.)

In the third issue of The Germ (retitled Art and Poetry), the etching by Madox Brown, immediately preceded this poem. WMR's notes on "Cordelia" are available here.