Self-portrait of Elizabeth Siddall

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we are reading a poem by Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddall. Known as a model for the Pre-Raphaelites, most notably for “Ophelia,” and the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Siddall was also an artist and poet. Siddall was discovered in a milliners and adored by the Pre-Raphaelites for her bountiful hair. She was painted and drawn by many of the Brotherhood, but Rossetti was particularly enamoured of her. They had an on/off relationship for several years before eventually marrying, marred by Rossetti’s continuous affairs and infatuations. Not just a muse, Siddall also drew and painted and was an accomplished artist in her own right, and her work was particularly admired by John Ruskin.

Her poetry was not published in her lifetime. The poems are overwhelmingly melancholy and feature a reoccuring theme of lost love. Her poems were posthumously published in heavily edited versions by her brother-in-law, William Michael Rossetti. Scholarship and restoration of her poetry is ongoing. Today we are reading “Worn Out:”

“Thy strong arms are around me, love
My head is on thy breast;
Low words of comfort come from thee
Yet my soul has no rest.

For I am but a startled thing
Nor can I ever be
Aught save a bird whose broken wing
Must fly away from thee.

I cannot give to thee the love
I gave so long ago,
The love that turned and struck me down
Amid the blinding snow.

I can but give a failing heart
And weary eyes of pain,
A faded mouth that cannot smile
And may not laugh again.

Yet keep thine arms around me, love,
Until I fall to sleep;
Then leave me, saying no goodbye
Lest I might wake, and weep.”

You can find this and other poems by Siddall on Read more about Siddall in her Wikipedia entry.

We’ll see you again tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!