Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Getting to know Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall on her birthday: (July 25, 1829-February 11, 1862)

 Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall 

Title

Miniature Portrait of Elizabeth Siddall

Date

1860-61; 1963

Creator

Dante Gabriel Rossetti; George C. Williamson

Description

This delicate, palm-sized portrait sits encased in a jeweled frame made of gold, bowenite, opal, diamonds, and star sapphires. The object was given to The Walters Art Museum in 1963 with a large collection of portrait miniatures. Unlike a traditional painted miniature, this piece is a black and white photograph—likely a carte-de-visite—overpainted in gouache. The first photograph of the object included in our gallery shows the front of the framed photograph. A three-quarter length portrait of a figure sits before a dark blue background, head turned slightly to the left, with her eyes downcast and her hands clasped. A light red shawl is draped around her shoulders and held in place with her hands, partially obscuring a brown striped dress. White accents draw our eyes to her sleeves and the frill at her neck, where a brooch is fastened. In the second image, the engraved inscription on the reverse of the frame, added in the early 20th century, asserts:

This represents / Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, / who on the 25th of May 1860 became the wife of / Dante Gabriel Rossetti. / In May 1861 she gave birth to a child, / and died on February 10th 1862, / having unhappily taken an overdose of Laudanum / in order to relieve a severe form of Neuralgia / by which she was afflicted. / This Portrait was painted by her husband / between December 1860 and May 1861, / and is the only portrait the artist painted / of his wife after her marriage. / He painted her portrait numberless times / before her marriage and made many sketches of her / but afterwards made one slight sketch in pencil / which has been lost / and painted this miniature.
JO BRIGGS ON WHAT THIS OBJECT TEACHES US:

If we choose to accept the inscription on the back of the frame at face value, this portrait remains the only locatable photograph of Elizabeth Siddall. For Dr. Briggs, the photograph’s physical history, as well as its literal “framing,” prompts valuable questions about Siddall’s agency and our role as viewers in the portrait’s ongoing history.

Dr. Briggs explains that the portrait appears to date from around 1860, based on the format of the photograph and the style of the sitter’s dress. However, no written evidence links the photograph or the overpainting to either Siddall or Rossetti. The earliest reference Dr. Briggs has found to the photograph’s existence dates to 1906, when it entered the collection of the American banker J. Pierpont Morgan. It was Morgan, working with his personal curator of portrait miniatures, George C. Williamson, who added the frame and the inscription. The inscription attempts to fix Siddall first and foremost in her traditional feminine roles of wife and mother, while also mythologizing the manner of her death and emphasizing above all her status as a tragic Pre-Raphaelite muse. Dr. Briggs suggested that the frame’s inscription may have been intended by Williamson to persuade Morgan of the portrait’s value and authenticity. The inscription may thus have more to do with the exchange between these two men than it does with Siddall herself.

For Dr. Briggs, the portrait’s ambiguous history and the inscription on the back of the frame relate directly to the issue of Siddall’s agency. As feminist art historians have pointed out, Siddall was a Pre-Raphaelite artist in her own right—but it is her role as model and muse to her husband and his circle that defined and continues to define her. If this is indeed a photograph of Siddall, Dr. Briggs suggested that here, yet again, she has been effaced by Rossetti and his legacy.

The issue of Siddall’s agency has led Dr. Briggs to reflect on her own curatorial role in the portrait’s ongoing history: does looking for further documentary evidence of the photograph’s provenance group her with art experts like Williamson, who attempt to exert their control over this object and Siddall’s image? Dr. Briggs urges us to consider where we can locate Siddall’s agency within the composition of the portrait, pointing out that the way the sitter crosses her hands over her chest recalls Rossetti’s painting “Beata Beatrix.” Did Siddall work with Rossetti to find this introspective stance, which both “attracts and deflects the male gaze”? Or did she perhaps decide for herself how to pose for the photograph?

Ultimately, Dr. Briggs reminds us that this portrait is forever altered not only by the layer of gouache and the elaborate frame but also by the narrative that has built up around it—and each of these elements mediate our relationship to the object. (Jo Briggs, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland).
Elizabeth Siddall, 1860, photograveure  and autograph letter from Elizabeth Siddal to Georgiana Burne-Jones, 12 March 1861 Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library.

Chatham Place
Tuesday Morning

My dear Little Georgie,

     I hope you intend coming over with Ned tomorrow evening like a sweet meat, it seems so long since I saw you dear.  Janey will be here I hope to meet you. 

With a willow pattern dish full of love to you and Ned.

Lizzie

 Elizabeth Siddal's beautiful poem archived, Ashmolean Museum, U.K.

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall, Manuscript sheet of poetry. 
"Thy strong arms around me love."
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Thy strong arms are around me, love
My head is on thy breast;
Low words of comfort come from thee
Yet my soul has no rest.

For I am but a startled thing
Nor can I ever be
Aught save a bird whose broken wing
Must fly away from thee.

I cannot give to thee the love
I gave so long ago,
The love that turned and struck me down
Amid the blinding snow.

I can but give a failing heart
And weary eyes of pain,
A faded mouth that cannot smile
And may not laugh again.

Yet keep thine arms around me, love,
Until I fall to sleep;
Then leave me, saying no goodbye
Lest I might wake, and weep.

Lovers listening to music by Elizabeth Siddall, 1854
































Tuesday, July 12, 2022

An early review of The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton




Alive with the magic of 18th-century Amsterdam, an enchanting, fantastical stand-alone companion novel to the sensational New York Times bestseller The Miniaturist, which has sold over two million copies worldwide.

Amsterdam in the year 1705. It is Thea Brandt's eighteenth birthday. She is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms, but life at home is increasingly difficult. Her father Otto and her Aunt Nella argue endlessly over their financial fate, selling off furniture in a desperate attempt to hold on to the family home.

As catastrophe threatens to engulf the household, Thea seeks refuge in Amsterdam's playhouses. She loves the performances, and the stolen moments afterwards are even better. In the backrooms of her favorite theater, Thea can spend a few precious minutes with her secret lover, Walter, the chief set-painter, a man adept at creating the perfect environments for comedies and tragedies to flourish. The thrill of their hidden romance offers Thea an exciting distraction from home. But it also puts her in mind of another secret that threatens to overwhelm the present: Thea knows her birthday marks the day her mother, Marin, died in labor. Thea's family refuses to share the details of this story, just as they seem terrified to speak of “the miniaturist” - a shadowy figure from their past who is possessed of uncanny abilities to capture that which is hidden.

Aunt Nella believes the solution to all Thea's problems is to find her a husband who will guarantee her future. An unexpected invitation to Amsterdam's most exclusive ball seems like a golden opportunity. But when Thea finds, on her doorstep, a parcel containing a miniature figure of Walter, it becomes clear that someone out there has another fate in mind for the family . . .

A feat of sweeping, magical storytelling, 
The House of Fortune is an unputdownable novel about love and obsession, family and loyalty, and the fantastic power of secrets.


Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bloomsbury Publishing (August 30, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1635579740
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1635579741
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.23 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.55 x 1.35 x 9.55 inches

Herengracht in Amsterdam canal

 Love is something that is learned in far less alluring settings, than playhouses and ballrooms.  It is earned in the deeds you do.  The words you speak.  It takes practice.  Patience.  Time.  You will learn about love, I am sure.  But it might not take the form you originally expected.


Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing. U.S. Publication Day:  August 30, 2022

The House of Fortune is the sequel to author, Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist. I have to say, there are many families that I sometimes found an overwhelmingly amount of characters to be distracting from the novel.

If you enjoyed, The Miniaturist than reading Nella's chapters and discovering who the mid 30s woman is and what she goes through, should be eye opening.  Otto is now the man of the house and Cornelia is a housekeeper and caretaker.

Personally, the most interesting character is Thea the 18 year old daughter of Otto and Marin. It was her storyline that kept me turning pages.  Her quest for love and the maturation of the reality of a love relationship and the fairy tale was gripping and quite touching to follow.

To pre-order The House of Fortune on Bloomsbury Pulishing


 


Friday, June 10, 2022

Review: HOW WE MIGHT LIVE: AT HOME WITH JANE AND WILLIAM MORRIS By Suzanne Fagence Cooper

 


For the first time, a joint biography of William Morris and his creative partner and wife, Jane Morris.

William Morris – poet, designer, campaigner, hero of the Arts & Crafts movement – was a giant of the Victorian age. His beautiful creations and provocative philosophies are still with us today: but his wife Jane is too often relegated to a footnote, an artist’s model given no history or personality of her own.

In truth, Jane and William's personal and creative partnership was the central collaboration of both their lives. The homes they made together – at Red House, Kelmscott Manor and in London – were gathering places for artists, writers and radical thinkers. Through their domestic life and the things they collected and made, Jane and William explored how we all might live a life more focused on beauty and fulfillment. As William said, ‘The secret of true happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life’.

In How We Might Live, Suzanne Fagence Cooper explores the lives and legacies of Jane and William Morris, finally giving Jane's work the attention it deserves and taking us inside two  worlds of unparalleled creative artistry.

Publication Date:  09/06/2022
ISBN-13:  9781529409482
Type:  Hardback
Format:  Books

William and Jane's marriage was tested by infidelity, and the chronic illness of their daughter Jenny. There were times of sadness and dislocation.  Still, these sufferings were resolved kindly.  In their London home, poets and political firebrands often sat side by side at supper.  We can hear the fierce discussions, the explosive tempers.  And yet, under Jane's roof, there was always space for careful, quiet designing, for embroidery and calligraphy. 

William himself was constantly trying out new ideas, writing, drawing, weaving, talking.  Sometimes it was hard for Jane to keep pace with him when he was ablaze with enthusiasm about a new project.  It was then that all her resourcefulness, all her patience was most keenly valued by her family and friends. 
I am astounded by the amount of research Dr. Cooper has done in writing her joint biography of married couple William and Jane Morris.  A chronological look into the beginning of a boy's life named William Morris, the sibling patterns, his wanting to be a priest, his education at Oxford which introduced him to a lifelong friendship with a young painter named Edward Burne-Jones, which introduced him to a bit of a known painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These two men would lead William to meet a very young, very tall, strange beauty of a girl named Jane Burden...the rest is history!  Not quite...Young William was content enough to live a quiet country life with his books on medieval history and nordic folklore surrounded by beautiful gardens until this goddess stepped into his world. His focus and direction took on new meaning while trying to get to know Jane Burden.  

We owe a huge debt to the research Dr. Cooper has done on Jane Morris (nee Burden). She has traced her life from childhood to adulthood while finding a few treasures along the way.  The veil has been lifted on the little girl growing up with siblings in small living quarters in the poverty section in and around Oxford to becoming the muse for a group of well educated painters and poets. 

William and Jane, The Morrises, were never a simple couple to understand. However, in trying to discern each individually, How We Might Live opens up a 'pandora's box' of lifelong hidden treasures both otherworldly and divine.  The utter brilliance of How We Might Live is how respectfully Dr. Cooper covers the relationship Jane Morris had with her husband's friend, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the cost it would have on her reputation later in life. I was surprised by a few dinner behaviours of Rossetti toward Jane but I will leave it at that. I loved how Suzanne Fagence Cooper made connections between Rossetti's drawings/sketches of Jane and his insulting and mean hearted doodles of his friend William relating to the progression of his affair. My heart was full of sadness for William.  This is just a taste of what readers I am sure want to know.  Also, another wonderful surprise was reading one theory that it was Sarah Prinsep who taught Jane Morris how to become a lady by educating her on how to entertain and be a supporting wife. Jane apparently lived at Little Holland House with Sarah, her husband and a menagerie of painters and poets.  I hope this is true!  

I was fascinated by the relationship between William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement when it came to the business side of how fabrics and wallpapers were made.  He was a creative genius of a man who lectured and traveled quite a lot. However, as the marriage progressed, Jane would give birth to two daughters Jenny and May Morris. Jane was an absolute doting mother who would do anything for her girls. William was the soft, mushy, sweet funny storytelling and playing with the girls dad that one would expect. 

At the end of the day, How We Might Live shows how a marriage works and survives throughout affairs, illness, fighting, business profit loss, etc.  To cope with Jane's affair, William believing he could not give Jane what she needed, chose to travel to Iceland, getting away to think things over. In the end, as William aged and his health grew poorer, they came together as a stronger couple who talked things out privately. When William Morris passed away, it was Jane Morris who continued to keep the business running along with her grown daughter May Morris who would eventually take over after Jane's passing.  

Swirling around The Morrises were many favorites of The Pre-Raphaelite Circle:  Lizzie Siddal is discussed throughout How We Might Live in association with her relationship and marriage to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Also mentioned was Lizzie's childhood friend, Emma Madox Brown who according to her diary was, E.D. Emma Drunk, wife of Ford Madox Brown. John Ruskin makes a few appearances as a friend of William Morris in his love of Medieval and Gothic.  Red Lion Mary is introduced as helping the painters out during their times when paintings were not selling. Fanny Cornforth is mentioned once in passing. Mostly, it is Edward Burne-Jones, wife Georgie, kids, Philip and Margaret as supporting cast. 

I am humbly grateful to have been sent an early digital review copy from Ana and Elizabeth of Quercus Books and River Run Books.

You can purchase the hardback, quercusbooks












Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Review of The Chosen by Elizabeth Lowry

Who pays the price of a writer's fame ?

One Wednesday morning in November 1912, the aging Thomas Hardy, entombed by paper and books and increasingly estranged from his wife Emma, finds her dying in her bedroom. Between his speaking to her and taking her in his arms, she is gone.

In the aftermath of his shattering loss, he comes across a set of diaries that Emma had secretly kept about their life together and he discovers what she had truly felt about their marriage.

By turns tender, surprising, comic and true, The Chosen hauntingly searches the unknowable spaces between husband and wife and regret, life and art.  

Hardcover304 pages
Published April 14th 2022 by Riverrun - Quercus Books


Immediately, what I love about The Chosen is the cover. The woman on the cover is a portrait of the real first Mrs. Hardy, Emma Lavinia GIfford herself. A stroke of genius for a cover as ever I saw one.


He doesn't remember that time. I am an irrelevance, a clog on his real life. He forgets that I believed in his gift when no one else did, that I saw from the very first what he might be,

I expect nothing from him now & that is just as well - neither gratitude nor attention, love, nor justice. He belongs to the public & all my years of devotion count for nothing.


Emma Lavinia Gifford, aged 30, 1870

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Dorset County Museum.


The sad part of the novel, The Chosen, was the life that Emma had towards the end of their marriage. When they spoke to each other Emma was indifferent and hard headed with Thomas; to cope, he poured his love into writing his novels. Emma and Thomas Hardy should have went their separate ways years ago. If it were a different time and place, I'm sure they would have divorced. Then, perhaps Emma would have lived a fulfilling life or at least that is what I would like to think. 

Thomas Hardy is writing one of his best loved novels, Tess of the D' Urbervilles while dealing with his wife's death. Widowed and grieving Elizabeth Lowry gives Thomas a vehicle by which to say goodbye; maybe understand her better with the help of a diary/journal which he discovers in her bedroom.  It is the conversation they should have had face to face. 

As a reader, it was beautiful to feel the love that Thomas always had for his wife, Emmie. She inspired the women in his novels. Somewhere along the line after years of supporting him and possibly feeling invisible, coming in second, she closed herself off to life, entreating into her own world where she wrote her own novels and poetry.  

Thomas Hardy as we see in the novel goes on to have a second marriage with another woman by his side, a colleague who was besotted with him, Florence does indeed become the second Mrs. Hardy. There's was a marriage of mutual respect, friendship, companionship and love of a different ardor.  

I really enjoyed reading about a man grieving for his wife with the depth of his soul. it was so refreshing not to have the woman blubbing into a handkerchief.  The Chosen was well researched and beautifully written. Elizabeth Lowry lovingly and respectfully filled in the gaps between Emma and Thomas's broken silences.  I am so glad the author brought Emma Gifford out of the shadows and into the light. I truly enjoyed meeting her and seeing a human side to Thomas Hardy.

The Chosen is available worldwide at online bookstores.






Monday, May 2, 2022

Newly Discovered Charlotte Bronte mini book: A Book of Rhymes by Charlotte Bronte - December 1829




The title page of A Book of Rhymes by Charlotte Brontë. Images credit: James Cummins Bookseller.


The contents page of A Book of Rhymes by Charlotte Brontë. Images credit: James Cummins Bookseller.

TAKEN FROM ANTIQUES TRADE GAZETTE website:

A Book of Ryhmes, a 15-page manuscript smaller than a playing card, is a collection of 10 poems written by Brontë at the age of 13, stitched in its original brown paper covers and dated December 1829.

The manuscript is well known in the world of Brontë scholarship: a mention appears in Mrs Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), from the transcription of Charlotte’s own handwritten catalogue of the books she wrote in 1829 and 1830. The titles of the 10 poems have been known, but the poems themselves have never been published, photographed, transcribed or even summarised.

Ann Dinsdale, principal curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, said: “It is always emotional when an item belonging to the family is returned home and this final little book coming back to the place it was written when it had been thought lost is very special for us.”

The museum has an extensive collection of Brontë works and in 2019 it bought an 1830 autograph miniature manuscript by a 14-year-old Charlotte when it was auctioned at Aguttes in Paris.

Written in minute characters in imitation of print, the tiny hand-sewn book is one of a series of ‘magazines’ created by siblings Charlotte and Branwell Brontë from January 1829 to August 1830.








Sunday, April 3, 2022

Review: Little Wing by Freya North

 

The story of two families over three generations. A novel about resilience, forgiveness and the true meaning of family, about finding one's place in the world and discovering how we all belong somewhere and to someone.

Little Wing is the powerful story of two families over three generations.

In the 1960s, a pregnant 16-year-old is banished to one of the remotest parts of the UK. Years later, Nell and Dougie are both at critical moments in their lives when their paths cross. Between Camden, Colchester and the Outer Hebrides, the three story lines collide when secrets are uncovered and answers sought.

Little Wing is a novel about resilience, forgiveness and the true meaning of family, about finding one's place in the world and discovering how we all belong somewhere and to someone.

Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group 
ISBN: 9781787397606 
Number of pages: 400 
Dimensions: 234 x 153 mm

Had her mother navigated the ankle twisting trudge along the tracks which clung, almost desperately, to the coastline? Had Florence stood, as Nell stood now, looking down on the swell of seaweed choke heaving in the inlets, gazing over the sea to Skye? Did her mother automatically sing 'Speed Bonny Boat' to herself, just as Nell was doing? Was this where I was born? In a brave little cottage like that - in this stone-hard lunar landscape?

To anyone who has ever felt like they don't belong anywhere or to anyone, I urge you to read Little Wing by Freya North. To anyone who has survived abandonment, been or is a caregiver to family and or loved ones, please read Little Wing. To anyone who has survived illness, death, any loss of any kind read Little Wing. 
I am not suggesting you have to have criteria to read this, obviously not. However, just the opposite. 

I hope that all 'us' sons and daughters who have survived family trauma, family wounds, who may be isolated or alone, please read Little Wing. I hope anyone who is broken, a wounded soul will find its way to reading Freya North's Little Wing. It is a novel of the greatest love story - the love of family transcends time. 

Freya North's writing is so evocative and beautifully transporting that I found myself not only crying but sobbing every time I would read Florence's words to her daughter.  A bond and connection that never ends. I loved Nell's sense of humor, her inner strength and steadfastness to never give up on her family. My heart broke into a thousand pieces for Florence but Nell's relationship with Dougie was especially touching. 

Little Wing is a story that will uplift you, make you laugh, make you cry and hopefully make you want to visit the Outer Hebrides as well.

NOTE:  
Little Wing by Freya North is not published in the United States. I bought my copy at Book Depository. I will link it below.  

To purchase the hardcover in the United States, Book Depository

To purchase on kindle or hardcover in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, Amazon UK


Monday, March 14, 2022

The funeral of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Remembrances (April 9 & 14, 1882)


Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet
He is not a prophet, but an artist; yet an artist who, by the very intensity of his artistic vision, and by some inborn bent toward symbol and mysticism, stands on the side of those who see in material things a spiritual significance, and utters words of universal meaning from the fullness of his own heart. (William Morris, Arts & Crafts Movement, describing Dante Gabriel Rossetti)



 


 

 


 






As Dante Gabriel Rossetti's health was declining, his brother William wanted a death mask made, so he asked a man from Brucciari's to come to Gabriel's bungalow in Birchington-On-Sea.  When William saw such a peaceful expression on his brother's face, he then asked Frederick Shields if he would draw Gabriel's face. He made one for William and one for their sister, Christina Rossetti - the poetess.  It was then time for William's daughter, Lucy, himself, and Christina to visit the Rectory to meet Mr. Alcock. They all walked to the churchyard to choose a spot for the grave.  Mr. Martin then made the funeral arrangements.  

Dear Mr. Scott - I think you will like to hear your dear friend Gabriel Rossetti was buried, so I will tell you- The church at Birchington stands back about three quarters of a mile from the sea on slightly rising ground which looks over the open land and the sea.  I thought simply; it is nicely kept, and to-day was full of Easter flowers. Close to Gabriel's grave there was a laurestinus and a lilac. 

At the gravesite, wonderful to say, was the old mother supported by William on one side and Christina on the other - a most pathetic sight. She was very calm, extraordinarily calm, but whether from self-command, or the passivity of age, I do not know - probably from both; but she followed all the proceedings with close interest.  Then around was a company of about fifteen or twenty, many of them friends of yours, and several of them whom I did not know. The service was well read by the vicar.  Then we all looked into the resting place of our friend, and thought and felt our last farewells - many flowers, azealas, and primrose, were thrown in. I saw William throw in his Lily of the Valley.

This is all I have to tell you.  Sad it was, very sad but simple and full of feeling and the fresh beauty of the day made itself felt with all the rest.  I shook hands with William and came home with Mr. Graham.  Dear Gabriel, I shall not forget him. (Vernon Lushington letter to William Bell Scott, 14 April, 1882)

The church in Birchington was a clifftop setting overlooking the sea.  It was the opposite to what you find at Highgate Cemetery in London which is exactly what Dante Gabriel Rossetti wanted. Separating his burial location from that of his family allowed Rossetti's achievements as a poet, translator, and artist to be commemorated by his dearest friends.  Colleague, Ford Maddox Brown, was asked by William Michael Rossetti if he would design a monument for his brother's grave and the cross was added. Walter Caine and Theodore Watts were the last to leave Birchington. Walter Caine describes his farewell visit to his friends grave, 

We walked one morning to the churchyard and found Gabriel's grave strewn with flowers. It was a quiet spring day, the birds were singing, and the yellow flowers were beginning to show. As we stood by the grave under the shadow of the quaint old church, with the broad sweep of landscape in front, so flat that the great dome of the sea appeared to lie on it, and with the sleepy rumble of the rolling waters borne to us from the shore, we could not but feel that little as we had thought to leave Rossetti there, no other place could be quite so fit. 

Three of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's closest friends wrote In Memoriam poems in his honor : one on the day of his death April 9 1882 and two poems on the day of his funeral April 14, 1882.  

 At the Grave of Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Mackenzie Bell

HERE of a truth the world’s extremes are met:
Amid the gray, the moss-grown tombs of those
Who led long lives obscure till came the close
When, their calm days being done, their suns were set—
Here stands a grave, all monumentless yet,        5
Wrapped like the others in a deep repose;
But while yon wakeful ocean ebbs and flows
It is a grave the world shall not forget,
This grave on which meek violets grow and thyme,
Summer’s fair heralds; and a stranger now        10
Pauses to see a poet’s resting-place,
But one of those who will in many a clime
On each return of this sad day avow
Fond love’s regret that ne’er they saw his face.
April 9th, 1882


A GRAVE BY THE SEA

I

Yon sightless poet [157] whom thou leav’st behind,
   Sightless and trembling like a storm-struck tree,
   Above the grave he feels but cannot see,
Save with the vision Sorrow lends the mind,
Is he indeed the loneliest of mankind?
   Ah no!—For all his sobs, he seems to me
   Less lonely standing there, and nearer thee,
Than I—less lonely, nearer—standing blind!

Free from the day, and piercing Life’s disguise
   That needs must partly enveil true heart from heart,
   His inner eyes may see thee as thou art
In Memory’s land—see thee beneath the skies
Lit by thy brow—by those beloved eyes,
   While I stand by him in a world apart.

II

I stand like her who on the glittering Rhine
   Saw that strange swan which drew a faëry boat
   Where shone a knight whose radiant forehead smote
Her soul with light and made her blue eyes shine
p. 158For many a day with sights that seemed divine,
   Till that false swan returned and arched his throat
   In pride, and called him, and she saw him float
Adown the stream: I stand like her and pine.

I stand like her, for she, and only she,
Might know my loneliness for want of thee.
   Light swam into her soul, she asked not whence,
Filled it with joy no clouds of life could smother,
   And then, departing like a vision thence,
Left her more lonely than the blind, my brother.

III

Last night Death whispered: ‘Death is but the name
   Man gives the Power which lends him life and light,
   And then, returning past the coast of night,
Takes what it lent to shores from whence it came.
What balm in knowing the dark doth but reclaim
   The sun it lent, if day hath taken flight?
   Art thou not vanished—vanished from my sight—
Though somewhere shining, vanished all the same?

With Nature dumb, save for the billows’ moan,
   Engirt by men I love, yet desolate—
Standing with brothers here, yet dazed and lone,
   King’d by my sorrow, made by grief so great
That man’s voice murmurs like an insect’s drone—
   What balm, I ask, in knowing that Death is Fate?

IV

Last night Death whispered: ‘Life’s purblind procession,
   Flickering with blazon of the human story—
   Time’s fen-flame over Death’s dark territory—
Will leave no trail, no sign of Life’s aggression.
Yon moon that strikes the pane, the stars in session,
   Are weak as Man they mock with fleeting glory.
   Since Life is only Death’s frail feudatory,
How shall love hold of Fate in true possession?’

p. 159I answered thus: ‘If Friendship’s isle of palm
   Is but a vision, every loveliest leaf,
Can Knowledge of its mockery soothe and calm
   This soul of mine in this most fiery grief?
   If Love but holds of Life through Death in fief,
What balm in knowing that Love is Death’s—what balm?’

V

Yea, thus I boldly answered Death—even I
   Who have for boon—who have for deathless dower—
   Thy love, dear friend, which broods, a magic power,
Filling with music earth and sea and sky:
‘O Death,’ I said, ‘not Love, but thou shalt die;
   For, this I know, though thine is now the hour,
   And thine these angry clouds of doom that lour,
Death striking Love but strikes to deify.’

Yet while I spoke I sighed in loneliness,
For strange seemed Man, and Life seemed comfortless,
   And night, whom we two loved, seemed strange and dumb;
And, waiting till the dawn the promised sign,
I watched—I listened for that voice of thine,
   Though Reason said: ‘Nor voice nor face can come.’

Birchington,
         Eastertide, 1882.



In Memoriam by Eugene Lee Hamilton

Marston, mourn not; Rossetti is not dead
Though chill as clay is now his shrouded brow
Nor grudge the grave the flesh it gathers now
The soul remains to live on earth instead.

And though that I was his friend if e'er I said 
A word in harshness, hear me disavow,
While such small wreath as I can wreathe I throw
Upon the stone that covers now his head.

The Wintry Breath of Azrael that swept 
A green leaf to the heap of bygone leaves
Where Alighieri and where Shakespeare lie.
Mourn not.  Each day some brother dies unwept,
But he for whom the distant stranger grieves
Outlives mere life; for men he doth not die. 
April 14, 1882

William Bell Scott; Dante Gabriel Rossetti; John Ruskin
albumen carte-de-visite, 29 June 1863, NPG-UK

Getting to know Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall on her birthday: (July 25, 1829-February 11, 1862)

 Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall  Title Miniature Portrait of Elizabeth Siddall Date 1860-61; 1963 Creator Dante Gabriel Rossetti; George C. Willi...