Friday, 7 October 2011

A Poem

Yesterday was National Poetry Day, so I made like Rossetti and wrote a poem that goes with a picture.


The grey mist caresses, the fingers of dawn,
and homeward you find me tired and worn,
'How can it be you?'
You shout and shake,
holding my wrists so hard
to break my fall.
I fall,
but in my slump,
it is not shame,
I am well-dressed and plump,
my dress is bright, clean, fit to be seen,
my shawl is new, my smile is free,
what have you to offer me?

'I remember you...' you say,
and I, you.
A roll in the hay, no more, my heart,
And I thank you for that start in this life.
You grip me hard,
I am not your wife,
nor wish to be.
What have you to offer me?

I am so tired, my purse is full,
but still you won't release your pull.
Good God, I want my bed.
All the women of my family are dead.
All worn to dust, or full of holes,
but good for them, they saved their souls
as they rotted in cold piety.

Nothing so holy for me, you see
I like the hell-fire heat of sin,
look at the trouble it's got me in.
Caught in a net, poor silly cow,
if it helps I can say that I'm sorry now,
I regret my escape, my life of disgrace,
the terrible acts I perform in this place.
You're right to condemn, love, I see my decline,
go back to the village and say
'She was mine,
and I showed her my worth
as I left her to rot with the damned of the earth.
But I gave my forgiveness.'

And so now will I,
as I give you my time which far better men buy.
Go back to the village and tell them I'm dead,
which I would be,
but I tumbled my way out instead.


  1. "All the women of my family are dead."
    Oh good lord, that line got me. Well done.

  2. Beautiful poem, Kirsty! A strong and self-reliant Victorian woman, yet tragic as well. The line about the man feeling proud to have forgiven her reminds me very much of the way I view La Belle Dame Sans Merci.


  3. Thanks, lovely ladies. I've always felt a strong attachment to this picture and an alternative reading of it (which probably isn't what Rossetti intended at all).

  4. I saw it in person when it was in the U.S. as part of the Waking Dreams exhibit. That exhibit had an impressive collection. I wish they would do it again.

  5. "I gave my forgiveness"... so like the hypocritical Victorian male attempt to rescue fallen/lower class women.

  6. I feel a cooking/poetry/art history book coming on... ;)


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx