Pre-Raphaelite Girls

On my desk your pictured face

       smiles love at me;

A double strand of pearls

       surrounds a neck

That could have been the envy

       of Pre-Raphaelite girls.

And I know, whatever changes

       there may be,

We'll always have the beauty

       of the pearls.

 

Your dark hair long and straight

       with Siddal’s grace

And Lizzie’s simple, earnest

       majesty;

Your brown eyes, brimmed with love

       mysterious

Might just be kissed with sorrow

       like Jane Morris’s;

And yet the cheer with which

       you’ve faced our trials

Brings out wise, patient Effie

       in your smiles--

Both Effie Gray Millais

       and Mother-mine,

Each finding love when wed

       a second time.

 

In your adoring gaze

       and impish mirth

I see good-hearted innocence

       and worth

Like that of Georgie, loyal

       wife and daughter,

Burne-Jones, MacDonald,

       heir to fairy laughter.

And in the firstborn daughter

       you've given me,

My protégé, like Morris

       had in May.

 

Your pictured face smiles love

       in modern frame--

At least, 'twas modern

       twenty years ago.

And yet from other portraits,

       which you claim

Are not yourself but various

       grandmas great--

Daguerreotype, salt print, and

       oval paint--

You gaze at me Pre-Raphaelite-style,

       no saint.

Nor yet was Guenevere,

       whom Morris loved so.

 

You've had your doubts, as I've

       no doubt had mine;

Yet through it all--and through the

       wilds of time,

Those years between, no block

       but not in synch,

No matter how I riddled

       through the rhyme,

Found common ground in years

       and lives that matched;

No matter your repeated trips

       through time

To bring me back elixirs of life

       and youth--

'Twas just your love I wanted

       to keep me young,

Our little family, growing late

       but strong.

 

Your oldest portrait,

       Waterhouse perhaps,

Although this sketch is clearly

       Dante's work--

Shows me that face I've loved

       with breathless zeal

Since you were little more

       than naïve girl--

Though older, sadder, wiser

       than your peers,

And yet your merriment

       defies the years

You whisper of in sleep,

       and thus make real.

 

Did those girls envy you,

       and send away

The rival who might steal

       alike their fame

And love of poets, painters,

       by whose minds

They were themselves cast

       out of their due time,

And into timeless roles

       of history, myth,

Suspended there past age

       and their own death,

Remembered by history, art,

       creative minds?

They might have cursed you,

       cast you out of time's

Relentless march toward

       glory, memory.

 

Did some good fairy turn

       their hate to fun

By lifting you from age

       to agelessness,

Not outside time, but simply

       swimming in it?

My dear, it matters not.

       I love you tons,

More with each hour that passes--

       and does not pass.

We're meant to walk together,

       to glory in

The sun in treetops, sparkling lake,

       the sin--

If sin it was to love

       one old, one young--

And which of us was which,

       I cannot say.

We each love more with every

       passing day.

 

I know you dream.  I see you

       stroke the pearls--

Gateway or mercy from

       Pre-Raphaelite girls

Who loved too well, who

       died, who drank regret.

Please say you won't go back.

       If nothing yet

Can solve the riddle of

       too many years young,

I'll go myself with you, work hard,

       make books

Alongside William Morris,

       paint your looks,

Hands purple with dye, weave

       tapestries and verse,

While you like Christina Rossetti

       craft poems true.

We'll make this world seem

       beautiful, not cursed--

And make sure all the stunners

       get their due.

Let's do that now, and here.

       We've many girls.

We'll nurture talents in

       our family first.

 

On my desk your pictured face

       smiles love at me;

A strand of cultured pearls

       surrounds a neck

That must have been the envy

       of Pre-Raphaelite girls.

And I know, whatever changes

       we may see,

We won't neglect the promise

       of the pearls--

But love each day

       and all our young

       Pre-Raphaelite girls.

 

Ashes to Ashes

The Blessings