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Excerpts of Elizabeth Siddall's journals

I have been working on some illustrations for William Allingham; he is trying to publish some of Sir Walter Scott's poetry. They almost remind me of a folk ballad; they are beautiful. The one I have been working on most, "The Gay Goshawk" has moved me. It is the story of a young lady and her strong love that leads her to defy her family. This is the image I chose to illustrate.

Then spak her cruel step-minnie, "Take ye the burning lead,
And drap a drap on her bosome,
To try if she be dead."

They took a drap o' boiling lead,
They drapp'd it on her breast;
"Alas! alas!"

This burning test of faithfulness stopped me. I knew it was the image that must be shown. The father cries out for help and the daughter stays silent in her own triumph. It is fitting that though at the end she wins, she has still been punished. Here her silence and her sleep are her forms of resistance. Scott's work has started to influence my writing as well. A young mother is on her deathbed; she has just given birth and her lover is far from home. But my heroine instead of waiting and wondering, asks her mother to care for the child.

And, mother dear, take my young son,
(Since I was born of thee),
And care for all his little ways,
And nurse him on your knee.

The young woman is careful to hide her love from others and asks her mother to use different folk symbols to tell her lover of hr fate. The symbolism is mostly my own creation; I don't know if it is real or not. Its title so far is "At Last."

***

Some of my pieces were exhibited again and so far the misspelling has not been rectified. It has not been because of a lack of effort on my part; I have tried to make the corrections, but my words seem not to be heard. It is as if I had two parts to me and instead of them remaining separate they have now become one, though they do not blend. Instead, they cover each other. It is true that I am known more as a artist's model than as an artist. But that is not me in these paintings; I don't know why that is never realized. Don't they know that what they are seeing is only what the painter is willing to show them? But I am always believed to be the same as I am in those paintings. I have become so used to that sort of reaction that now it often goes unnoticed, but the problem with my name I cannot ignore. In any professional sense I am known only as Siddal. But that is not my name! It has labeled me as something I am not and I can not seem to go back to the real self.

***

I have started a new poem.

And he came ready to take and bear
The cross I had carried for many a year,
But words came slowly one by one
From frozen lips shut still and dumb.

The cross she carries is a burden that only she sees but it also represents a kind of grave marker and it adds a rather mysterious, ghostly quality that I had not seen before. But the cross is a symbol for the long term relationship and the suffering; I think they are tied to each other and their combined effect is her silence. Her lips are frozen to show that they have not been used; the lovers have become so distant she is unable to speak to him. Her slow speech is a sign of unsureness but it also uses her silence to her own advantage. As a woman, she uses silence as her own form of resistance. Her silence is given the air of a spell, but the spell happens at the time of the lover's return not before as most usually would. My hopes for this poem is to show a woman who takes back her long lost lover with her silence. While this silence is damning her to the pain and suffering that she realizes he will bring, it is her one form of resistance; "I am not happy here."

***

I sent "Lust of the Eyes" to Christina yesterday. After having read her poem "In An Artist's Studio," I felt that she should see my own interpretation of her brother's world. I am amazed at her own portrayal; it is very powerful. But that is, I feel, a common characteristic of her writing. Though it is almost always subtle the power is there. I wrote of a man who values women, his lover specifically, only for their beauty. With nothing else to want, he is free to release her whenever he feels that her beauty is lacking. He cares only for the way in which he perceives her; the rest of her is inconsequential. That seems a common thing for an artist. Christina sees him in much the same way, I now know. Her attempt to take the sitter's point of view is compelling. I did not realize that she had been aware of his nature.

Not as she is, but when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

I think our writing styles are quite similar. Our speakers are often so similar; their quiet strength mixed with despair. There is a hint of cool sarcasm in most of our poems, at least, that is often the attempt. I admire her work very much, I would like very much to work with her someday.

***

My latest writing I have decided to call "Worn Out." Here the speaker is a woman who, at first glance, might be seen as trying to hold onto a love that is otherwise dead. However, I think this is actually the woman saying goodbye to her lover because she knows that she has nothing more to give him.

I can but give a failing heart
And weary eyes of pain.

This woman is physically quite weak, but emotionally she is strong. She sees that this love, which at one time she probably valued, has actually hurt her; she says "it turned and struck her down." It is because of this realization that she refuses to give any more. I used her sleep as her retreat; it is her way of ending this relationship. Her lover is shown to be strong, physically. His arms are holding her and her head is resting on his chest but his own feelings about this relationship I never hint at. Rather, I want the poem to be about the ways in which the woman is strong--not the man. But it is also as if the speaker discards her lover's strength. She tells him to leave after she has fallen asleep and though his strong arms are around her she does not give in to this love. His strength is irrelevant to her now.

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These works are a fictional representation as interpreted by the author.

(c) 1999 by Stefani Clements