Face It, Her Suffering Makes a Good Story

Beata Beatrix c.1864-70 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882

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 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 faces even in this new life illness and addiction.
Painter and poet, not merely the model, memorable face
of Dante’s visions, Lizzie will meet the face of death –
their stillborn child – then face her own (an overdose…)
He can’t face life without her, casts his manuscript
into her grave but then repents, exhumes her rotting face
which follows him, now facing 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.