A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Poem of the Day: Christina Rossetti

In an Artist's Studio 

One face looks out from all his canvases,
     One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
     We found her hidden behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
     A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
     A saint, an angel -- every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
     And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
     Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
     Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.
--Christina Rossetti

Yes, it's a poem about the obsession of Christina's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, with his model and wife, Elizabeth Siddal, the quintessential Pre-Raphaelite woman. But it's also a poem about objectification, about what feminist critics refer to as the "male gaze." A fascinating lot, those Rossettis.

Christina Rossetti, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti