Poems Beyond the Grave

Poems Beyond the Grave

A Poem by David Lewis Paget
"

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a force in 19th Century Art.

"

 

They took their shovels and digging tools
To the top of Highgate Hill,
They walked in a deadly silence there
In the dusk, in the evening chill,
They picked their way through the deep-laid bones,
The monuments, great and small,
And looked for the plain Rossetti stone
In their search for Elizabeth Siddal.
 
That red-haired, wraithlike, ghostly girl
Who had charmed the PRB,
She'd sat, at first, for Deverell
Who was doomed, with Bright's Disease,
She'd fallen hard for the artist then
Though her love was never returned,
For Deverell died so suddenly -
It was as if her love was spurned.
 
She sat for Dante Gabriel,
For Holman Hunt, Millais,
As the model for drowned Ophelia
In an ice cold bath she lay,
She lent her beauty to every brush,
Each stroke laid bare her soul,
When she looked around for herself she found
There was nothing left at all.
 
Rossetti had kept her close to him
As he slowly became obsessed,
He scribbled a dozen portraits from
Her head to her heaving breast,
He placed her high on a pedestal,
A Madonna in all but name,
But kept his physical love from her
That she might not suffer shame.
 
He penned the poems he wrote for her
In a small, grey calf-skin book,
He carried the poems everywhere
As a proof of the love it took,
He made no copies, he held them close
They were food for a future muse,
For his art and poetry vied with him -
It was painting he would choose.
 
But she; who knew what rent her soul,
The cravings she despaired?
She sipped at the potion laudanum
As her heart and her mind were bared,
She scribbled the weary verses that
Spoke love, of a love long-lost,
While Dante frolicked with Annie Hughes
At Elizabeth Siddal's cost.
 
As Lizzie despaired on laudanum
She had ceased to be of use,
Her visage was sad, and aged and drawn
In the sick room of abuse,
While girls with youth, vitality
And an earthy yen for sin
Like Fanny Cornforth, came to sit -
And Rossetti let them in.
 
They wed, but much as a faded dream
The knot had been tied too late,
As Lizzie, dying a little each day
Succumbed to a morbid fate,
For one dark night she had laid her down
Penned a final note, to whit:
'My life has become so miserable
That I want no more of it.'
 
She lay by an empty laudanum phial,
Rossetti was quite distraught,
He'd loved her, but with a purer love
Than his lust or his money bought,
His grief was such, as he laid her down
In her coffin, she looked so fair,
That he placed the book of his poems
Between her cheek and her auburn hair.
 
The years went on and he sank himself
In a pit of despond, unwell,
Withdrew from his friends and dosed himself
With a phial of chloral,
His painting suffered, his income too,
He turned to the ancient muse,
And thought of the poems beyond the grave,
He knew that he'd have to choose!
 
He wrote to Charles Augustus Howell
A rogue that he'd used before,
To test him; whether to dig her up
Or to lose his poems forever;
Howell replied he should get them back,
Or he'd lose them to death, for good,
'Your works are the works of genius,
Bring them back to the world - You should!'
 
So Howell, he toiled up Highgate Hill
While Dante hid in his lair,
Too scared to look on his love again,
His muse with the auburn hair,
A fire was lit in the dead of night
The coffin was raised on high,
His love was torn from her deathly stare
They could almost hear her sigh.
 
The book was caught in her tangled hair
Which had filled the coffin's space,
And she was lovely, and quite serene
As they lifted the book from her face,
They lowered her gently, back in the ground
That had served as her awful tomb,
She lay defiled like a bride, reviled,
But without her lawful groom.
 
Rossetti published his poems then,
They sold by the thousandfold,
For Howell had leaked the story out
That he hadn't wanted told;
But a fate awaited Augustus Howell
A revenge that would beggar belief,
He was found, throat cut in the gutter -
With a coin, tight clenched in his teeth!
 
David Lewis Paget

© 2012 David Lewis Paget



My Review

Would you like to review this Poem?
Login | Register




Featured Review

What a tragic epic tale. You covered the passion, despair, tragedy and art so well. The eternal triangle of love renounced. Then practicality raises it's ugly head and a grave defiled to retrieve a gift of love given, which eventually destroys. How sad. You have painted a graphic picture of a Greek tragedy. Dante actually was criticized for the unearthed poems due to the erotic nature of them after they were exhumed. Did you also know that his wife took the overdose after giving birth to a still born child? Their story was one of so much talent for artistic beauty and yet their lives were so interwoven with sadness and darkness. You have written a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

David, only you could bring back to life such a sad and tragic story from th along ago past..kudoos my frind..and Keep them coming pleasse..I learn something newe from each one of your works I read..God bless..Valentine

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Damn. I am still in awe of your writing. Bravo and a standing ovation to this. Over and over and over.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is one of those poems in which you have mastered everything. While familiar with Elizabeth Siddal through the painting of Ophelia, I was unaware of the remainder of her story. Unrequited love has been the death of many, if not in body, than surely in spirit. As ever, your work holds me captive from beginning to end; and I am never disappointed. You are a master of the craft!

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

How tragic, the man who is unwilling to commit to his feelings; how more so, for the woman who loves him!
Rather than create a perfect monument to love, wrought of his love for her and hers for him, intertwined, he makes instead objects of grease and graphite*, enframed with her despair! Then, the consummate Soul's pillage, the giving of his heart, wrought onto paper, to her, only following her death, even then stealing it back from her defiled tomb, her decayed face....FOR PROFIT! His self-loathing cries out to me yet!
Lena seems acquainted with the history behind this story, I am not, but you have made the dead come alive to me in such a forceful way that I shall have to go read up on it...

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What a tragic epic tale. You covered the passion, despair, tragedy and art so well. The eternal triangle of love renounced. Then practicality raises it's ugly head and a grave defiled to retrieve a gift of love given, which eventually destroys. How sad. You have painted a graphic picture of a Greek tragedy. Dante actually was criticized for the unearthed poems due to the erotic nature of them after they were exhumed. Did you also know that his wife took the overdose after giving birth to a still born child? Their story was one of so much talent for artistic beauty and yet their lives were so interwoven with sadness and darkness. You have written a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

644 Views
5 Reviews
Rating
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on April 25, 2009
Last Updated on June 27, 2012

Author

David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



About
more..

Writing

Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..