Love and Hate

I chose this poem because I find it to be one of  the most expressive of Elizabeth Siddal’s poems. The bitterness is palpable. With all the force of “blasts of heaven to take thee down”, Siddal unleashes her rage. I have no doubt that this poem finds its roots in the relationship between Lizzie and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In modern terms, we would call their relationship dysfunctional. I take no sides, they both had responsibility for their shortcomings. But this poem gives us a glimpse of Lizzie’s frustration at a love that had soured. ” Great love I bore thee: now great hate
Sits grimly in its place.”
To accompany the poem, I have included Lizzie’s self portrait. It provides a striking contrast to the beautiful images Gabriel created of Lizzie. Unlike most women (myself probably included) who choose to show themselves in the best possible light, Lizzie painted simply what she saw. I think it is a strong artistic statement that she made, and a bold one at that.

Elizabeth Siddal, self portrait
Elizabeth Siddal, self portrait

Love and Hate

Ope not thy lips, thou foolish one,
Nor turn to me thy face;
The blasts of heaven shall strike thee down
Ere I will give thee grace.

Take thou thy shadow from my path,
Nor turn to me and pray;
The wild wild winds thy dirge may sing
Ere I will bid thee stay.

Turn thou away thy false dark eyes,
Nor gaze upon my face;
Great love I bore thee: now great hate
Sits grimly in its place.

All changes pass me like a dream,
I neither sing nor pray;
And thou art like the poisonous tree
That stole my life away.

More:

Full list of Lizzie’s poems

Artwork by Elizabeth Siddal

Handwriting analysis of Elizabeth Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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One Reply to “Love and Hate”

  1. I think that Siddal’s writing is as ethereal as she was. Her poetry reflects a strong disillusionment that I can connect to. As to her self-portrait, I couldn’t believe it was she, the first time I saw it! All her bitterness and unhappiness is so eloquently portrayed there… Perhaps she was sick of having her image painted “as she fills his dream” and “not as she is”,(cf:”In An artist’s Studio” by Christina Rossetti) and Lizzie was beyond doubt unhappy…
    Today I am sharing “Echo” by Christina Rossetti, where the reader infers that she has lost her lover many years ago and her only way of seeing him is through her dreams. Christina dwells on death in almost all her poetry in a delicate and haunting way: “O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,/Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,/Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet/Where thirsting longing eyes/Watch the slow door/That opening, letting in, lets out no more”.

    Echo

    Come to me in the silence of the night;
    Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
    Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
    As sunlight on a stream;
    Come back in tears,
    O memory, hope and love of finished years.

    O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
    Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
    Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
    Where thirsting longing eyes
    Watch the slow door
    That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

    Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
    My very life again tho’ cold in death:
    Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
    Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
    Speak low, lean low,
    As long ago, my love, how long ago.

    (it appeared in Goblin Market and Other Poems 1862)

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