We'll kick off with a bit of Fanny...
This is, of course, Woman with a Fan from 1870, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. At the time this was drawn, Rossetti had stopped using Fanny as his regular model, and his affections had been very much transferred to Jane Morris. His health had suffered, and in 1869 Elizabeth Siddal's coffin had been dug up for the poems that the half-blind, half-mad Rossetti felt he needed in order to survive. Fanny had been cast out and pulled back by her lover repeatedly over the previous ten years and would suffer more of the same until Rossetti's death. One thing that remained was her love.
I have no side,
I clutch the chair,
Your eyes, so absent, simply stare,
And I am so afraid that you
Can’t see beyond a love that’s new.
My heart is still the same.
In my hand
I clutch a fan,
And Oh Sweet Lord I love this man.
The feathers, spread out into death,
Soft-ripple with your slightest breath
And yet remain the same.
Now years have passed,
I clutch at straws,
And sink in with my feeble claws.
Your lover fills this room alone,
And I am brushed, a feather blown,
Am I the one to blame?
Yet love you all the same.
The second poem is about Alexa Wilding in 1865. Can you imagine how precarious her situation was when Rossetti asked her to be his model? She had steady if difficult work as a seamstress and a frankly unstable man offers her the promise of more money. I wonder how she felt at the end of the first painting - would he keep her? How did the painter deal with the woman when she wasn't being his muse?
Turn, turn, my heart is broke,
I felt you turn before you spoke and I am now deceived.
The brush is down, you are relieved, the heat has thus receded.
I am no longer needed.
My coins are cool, our fingers brush,
But I’m left empty by your rush and I am posted back,
The goddess filled the woman’s lack, I’ve nothing more to offer,
I am an empty coffer.
Your worship turned my heart, my head,
Your worship brought you to my bed, and helped you in your task,
The model wore the lover’s mask, the ribbon’s pulled to fraying.
I know you won’t be staying.
Happy National Poetry Day, m'darlings!