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Lizzie Siddal

by Stephen Ellams

“I felt the spell that held my breath,
Bending me down to a living death.”
— Elizabeth Siddal

A ‘stunner’, they say you were:
Doe-eyed, heavy lids,
Long pale copper hair
Refined, elegant
‘Not much of a voice’,
Nor a penny for your thoughts!
So many women of your era
Struggled to be heard.

Lady Clare
From humble roots you emerged
Honest, resolute
Deverell’s beau idéal,
Lithe milliner’s assistant
Uncorseted, in bloom,
You caused quite a stir,
Embodying that noble vision
Of amour courtois.

Pippa Passes
As an artist’s apprentice,
Tender poet of pathos,
Avant-garde pioneer
Striving for independence,
You climbed out of those selfsame
Monomaniacal dreams
To build a reputation
Based on the merits of your work.

Disesteemed mistress
Submerged in your own distress
With soft-heavy wings
Wan in the waiting
For rapture to return,
Your only means of escape:
To go floating away
In a laudanum haze.

Regina Cordium
Beauty that never ages
Venerated by brush strokes,
A marital gift
Dante’s muse held in stasis
On a playing-card canvas
Denied flesh, blood and bone,
Reduced to fond remembrance
Outside his fantasy realm.

Beata Beatrix
Of the ocean and heavens
Diffused through stained glass,
Draped in contrasting colours
Shimmering like a spell
Between this world and the next,
Braced to follow the light
No more rocking the cradle
Of your stillborn child.

Ars longa, vita brevis
For trail-blazing women
Who challenge patriarchy
And its antiquated views.
Still, Lizzie, it seems to me
Maybe all that you needed
Beyond striving to be heard
Was for someone to love you
For your true worth.


Lizzie Siddal

Lizzie Siddal as Ophelia

Copyright © 2020 by Stephen Ellams

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