Face It, Her Suffering Makes a Good Story

Sonnenizio with a line from Christina Rossetti

Beata Beatrix c.1864-70 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882
Beata Beatrix: posthumous portrait of Elizabeth Siddall by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1864-70.

One face looks out from all his canvases, Christina writes.
She’s beauty’s face, he says, the only muse he needs,
the face of his Elizabeth, her wild yet delicate solemnity.
Not often shown full-face, her long, pale profile
faces far beyond the painting’s frame, her red mane flares.
She looks remote, mysterious, surely faced poverty
before her face became her entrée to the Brotherhood
and in this new life faces illness and addiction.
Painter and poet, not merely the model, memorable face
of Dante’s visions, Lizzie will meet the face of death –
a stillborn child – then face her own (too soon, an overdose…)
He can’t face life without her, casts his manuscript
into her grave but then repents, exhumes her rotting face
which thenceforth follows him. He faces sorrow, guilt, disgrace.

 

Inspired by Luisa’s recent sonnenizios on Donne and Hopkins, this takes a line from In An Artist’s Studio by Christina Rossetti, thought to be about her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his partner Elizabeth Siddall.

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