Musings on Milliais: ‘Autumn Leaves’

Spying the first acorn, those first chills to the air and ultimately the changing hues of leaves usher in one of the gentlest of seasons – AUTUMN. For some it is a season synonymous with decay and death, but for me it is quite the opposite. Being instead, a new view of the world and its bare bones in their naked honesty as the cycle of renewal begins again. As most gardeners know, the chopping back of faded perennials in autumn often reveals the newly formed shoots that will be next summer’s glory.

Many of my favourite paintings by Millais are autumnal in theme and by the virtuosity of his hand and romantic soul, imbued with sense of fairy-tale enchantment. Millais has a keen sense of the ethereal, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary regardless of subject and narrative.

  • millais_leavesAutumn Leaves (1856) is perhaps one of Millais’s most famous works and often discussed in terms of the symbolism therein. By Juxtaposing a heap of decaying leaves with the fresh youthful girls and the brooding sky at twilight, the composition readily lends itself to a discussion on the transience of youth and mortality. However in a letter to F.G. Stephens, Millais describes how he had “intended the picture to awaken by its solemnity the deepest religious reflection. I chose the subject of burning leaves as most calculated to produce this feeling”. Can we therefore infer from Millais comment that rather than being a melancholic dirge on the inevitably of human decline, that he was aiming for something more ethereal in sentiment; a moment of silence and a space for reflection that is outside the ordinary material world? If we consider it so, then what Millais provides the viewer with is the means of transporting themselves to a higher spiritual plane by employing the vernacular symbolism of the every day. Elements of the composition support this assertion; despite the scene being one of action there is a static quality to the figures, the directional variance in the girls’ respective gazes imbues the painting with a feeling of their disconnection from corporeality.

However the painting did not weave its magic upon its first owner Mr Eden from Lytham. Eden disliked the painting intensely when it reached him, asking that Millais take the painting back. His request was declined by Millais’s wife, Effie, who advised Eden sit opposite it at dinner for a few months. Following this advice Eden found that proximity to the work produced an even greater dislike of it and so when his friend Mr Miller of Preston offered to exchange any three of his paintings for the Millais. Eden was quick to accept.

‘Autumn Leaves’ can be seen in all its splendour at Manchester City Art Gallery, where it forms part of the permanent display of Pre-Raphaelite artworks.

Giving the winter blues a great big hygge

Winter is a difficult season for me. Although there is much I love about it; cool crisp air, woolly jumpers and the majesty of bare branches, to name but a few; what’s not so much fun is the winter blues. In September their arrival merely hinted at, are in full occupation by October in all their teary, anxiety making, energy sapping glory. Over the years I’ve developed various strategies for dealing with them; a daylight lamp and regular exercise being the chief methods for keeping them at bay, or at least partly at bay. Hygge does the rest.

Hygge is the Danish attitude to life that doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but has been loosely defined as cosiness, or as the blogger Anna Lea West more descriptively terms it as ‘cosiness of the soul’. Hygge is a feeling, arising out of nights shared in the company of good friends and good food, or by curling up with a beloved besides a warm fire drinking hot chocolate and eating homemade spiced cake. In addition to all of these, hygge for me is the long forest walks I take with my beloved, both of us wrapped up in cosy woollens and armed with a flask of coffee; or the homey evenings we spend in front of the wood burning stove in our garden hideaway. It is also afternoons writing at my kitchen table while a scented candle flickers away giving everything a warm yellowy aura.

Hygge has transformed my winters into a time to be cherished rather than feared, and while I can’t claim to be wholly depression free, I’m certainly not the amorphous mass wrapped in a duvet refusing to move from the sofa that I once was either. I can count on one hand the ‘bad’ days I’ve had so far this winter and that is definitely something to celebrate, perhaps, with a little cake, hot chocolate and a candle or two.

A new broom

When I started this blog over six years it had a very particular purpose: a means of documenting a specific research project. When the project was completed my interest in the blog waned, my posts became sporadic and inevitably ceased. The blog was abandoned and alone, left to languish in cyberspace with only the occasional bit of tumbleweed for company.

The trouble was my blog became a place where I only really talked about art, mainly Pre-Raphaelite art. Now don’t get me wrong, I love, live and breathe the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but therein lies the problem. My PhD research is on the Pre-Raphaelites, so I’m constantly thinking and writing about them and often ‘the other stuff ‘I enjoy doing, thinking and writing about gets pushed to one side because it doesn’t fit the parameters I imposed on the blog.

I thought about starting a new blog for ‘the other stuff’ but soon realised that it was a silly idea, not least because there is a perfectly good blog sitting there. All that’s needed is a rethink, revamp and reboot.

As of today I’m reclaiming this space, taking a brush to the tumbleweed and building myself a cabin. Much of the content will still be fuelled by the titular terms of art and aesthetics; but in their broadest sense. The below painting by Pieter Claesz pretty much sums up the direction I want to take, i.e the embracing of all the senses and not limit myself to just the visual.

This gives me the freedom to explore my many passions, which, I will no doubt manage to somehow link to the Pre-Raphaelites, because let’s face it, that’s how I roll.

Painter and Poet: A Celebration of Elizabeth Siddal’s Works

As many Pre-Raphaelite scholars and enthusiasts will be aware, today is the anniversary of Elizabeth Siddal’s death, and as such an appropriate day to celebrate her artistic and literary endeavours. Perceptions of Lizzie are somewhat at odds with her actuality. She is often portrayed as a sulky and manipulative invalid (Violet Hunt’s The Wife of Rossetti), socially awkward and difficult: “not quite easy to understand, and not at all on the surface. All her talk was of a “chaffy” kind its tone sarcastic, its substance lightsome,” (WMR in Hawksley 57-58)

Yet the few extant letters by Lizzie show her to be witty and humorous, and mentions of her in Rossetti’s letters show her to be physically and mentally engaged with her work despite health problems. Although it is never said, between the lines of many accounts of her is the suggestion that Lizzie was a little bit too pleased with herself and haughty, yet her self portrait (1854) shows no trace of such narcissism or arrogance.

There is an unerring honesty about this portrait, her dress and hair are simply presented, her expression serious and the palette muted giving weight to her artistic aspirations. Lizzie wanted to be taken seriously.

As many of her paintings demonstrate Lizzie clearly had a good eye for colour and composition, her technical ability is weaker but improvement -as the below image shows- is also evident as time passes.


Sir Patrick Spens 1856

Sir Patrick Spens (1856) is one of Lizzie’s most compelling works, the drama of the cliffs and sea beyond is juxtaposed with the stillness and misery of the foreground figures. Lizzie articulates the agony of watching and waiting and the numbed expression concomitant with grief. An improvement in Lizzie’s painting ability is in evidence here too. Her figures have a greater refinement and she demonstrates her growing confidence by painting hands in complex contortions with, it has to be said, some success.

Lizzie’s poetry also has great appeal, its strength being in its simplicity. Rather than the complex and sometimes inaccessible verse of Dante Rossetti, Lizzie’s poetry is readable and as such highly evocative and emotive. Critics have often commented on the morbid and maudlin nature of her verse but the same can be said of many poets of the period; male and female alike. One doesn’t have to look too far to Christina Rossetti’s poetry or Mary Coleridge or to Tennyson, Browning and Keats to see similarly themed works.

Although the number of extant poems by Lizzie are few, once again we can see her promise. The below poem A Year and A Day is redolent with both sadness, and a distinct love of nature. The leaves, grass and corn are beautiful, cruel and eternal like the loss of love.

A Year and a Day

Slow days have passed that make a year,
Slow hours that make a day,
Since I could take my first dear love
And kiss him the old way;
Yet the green leaves touch me on the cheek,
Dear Christ, this month of May.

I lie among the tall green grass
That bends above my head
And covers up my wasted face
And folds me in its bed
Tenderly and lovingly
Like grass above the dead.

Dim phantoms of an unknown ill
Float through my tired brain;
The unformed visions of my life
Pass by in ghostly train;
Some pause to touch me on the cheek,
Some scatter tears like rain.

A shadow falls along the grass
And lingers at my feet;
A new face lies between my hands –
Dear Christ, if I could weep
Tears to shut out the summer leaves
When this new face I greet.

Still it is but the memory
Of something I have seen
In the dreamy summer weather
When the green leaves came between:
The shadow of my dear love’s face –
So far and strange it seems.

The river ever running down
Between its grassy bed,
The voices of a thousand birds
That clang above my head,
Shall bring to me a sadder dream
When this sad dream is dead.

A silence falls upon my heart
And hushes all its pain.
I stretch my hands in the long grass
And fall to sleep again,
There to lie empty of all love
Like beaten corn of grain.

So today, on the 153 rd anniversary of Lizzie’s death let’s celebrate her life, achievements and promise rather than forever consigning her to the role of tragic muse.

Elizabeth Siddal 25 July 1829 – 11 February 1862: Artist and Poet.

For more on Lizzie please visit

‘We dance among the golden sheaves’: Autumn and the Pre-Raphaelites

For the last couple of days there has been a perceptible nip in the air heralding the arrival of autumn. Autumn is a season that lends itself to the Pre-Raphaelite eye with its combination of rich jewel tones and earthy hues, delicious smells and sounds. Who can resist the sweet scent of fallen leaves as they crunch satisfyingly underfoot? Yet the sweet smell of crumbling leaves is the scent of decay, and their audible crunch a reminder of the transience of all living things.

Memento homo, quod cinis es, et in cinerem reverteris
(Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and to dust shalt return)

We live we die, and the world turns and it all starts again. Gloomy eh

In modernity John Everett Millais’ painting Autumn Leaves (1855-66) has been described as ‘a rumination on the transience of life’ (Rosenfeld, 2007, p. 132). Without a doubt the pictorial elements of the work lend themselves to this interpretation: four exquisitely pretty young girls gathering and piling fallen leaves in the gloaming certainly shouts “you might be young now but twilight surely follows day turning to night and like the leaves you will wither and die”. The presence of a half-seen reaper definitely adds further weight to this interpretation.

John Everett Millais, Autumn Leaves, 1855-6

Blimey, I’m feeling a bit ‘Sylvia Plath’ after that. But wait…

In a letter written in the autumn in which the painting was begun Millais wrote to Charles Collins ‘The only head you could paint to be considered beautiful by EVERYBODY would be the face of a little girl about eight years old, before humanity is subject to change’. (ibid)

What Millais was aiming for then wasn’t so much ‘life is fragile’ but an allusion to the imminent loss of innocence. The inclusion of the apple – a symbol for temptation and the loss of innocence- in the hand of the smallest child certainly suggests this. Is that a bite she’s taken too or a trick of the light? Either way the ambiguity creates tension. If we contextualise the girls within the framework of the law, the age of consent being 12 at this period, then at least three of the girls are legally adults, or fast approaching it. The smaller girl, who if she is around 8 years old as Millais’ letter suggests, although not of consensual age is equidistant in years from infancy to womanhood and therefore could be dubbed a child-women. A concept that was not without appeal to the Victorian male – as is evidenced by the character Quilp from Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop(1841) and his obsession with Little Nell Dodgson’s photographs of Alice Liddell.

Similarly elegiac in tone is Christina Rossetti’s poem Autumn. Only in place of Millais lament for the loss of innocence Rossetti mourns the inexorable extent of hers:

I dwell alone - I dwell alone, alone
Whilst full my river flows down to the sea
Gilded with flashing boats
That brings no friend to me
Love Songs, gurgling from a hundred throats,
O love pangs let me be (Rossetti, 1892,p.84)

Rossetti is explicit in this opening verse, the protagonist is lonely and all her chances to be that bastion of Victorian womanhood, a wife and a mother, are passing her by. The ache she feels for what is missing in her life is acutely felt, and all the more painful for the reader if we read the poem biographically. In 1848 Rossetti became engaged to the friend of her brothers and fellow PRB member James Collinson. Alas the engagement was not to last and was broken by Rossetti when Collinson converted to Catholicism. While it may seem that Autumn, written in 1858 bears no relevance being ten years distant from the broken engagement ; it is salient to note that Autumn was written a mere two months after James Collinson married Eliza Wheeler aged 40, a woman 12 years Rossetti’s senior.

As the poem progresses the protagonist reveals the agony of being a woman who has lost out in love and whose prime is passing. The cruelty of her situation made all the more acute in her cognisance that her loss was of her own doing of it. All about her ‘the gilded boats’ with their rich cargoes of ‘gold, stone and spices’ are clearly destined for, ahem, other ports.

In the later verses Rossetti introduces autumnal imagery to her metaphorical landscape to emphasise her fading prime and diminished hope:

 One last solitary swallow flies
 Across the sea, rough autumn tost…'


Mine Avenue is all a growth of oaks,
Some rent by thunder strokes
Some rustling leaves and acorns in the breeze
fair fall my fertile trees.

The final verse is the most emotive and explicit:

My trees are not in flower I have no bower and a gusty wind creaks my tower and lonesome, very lonesome is my strand. (Rossetti, 1892, p85-86)

Here, the protagonist’s sense of loss and desolation is absolute as the last of autumn finally gives way to a barren winter.Autumn is introspective. Rossetti picks apart the loss of her relationship and all that it would have brought; a situation that closely parallels and is best summed up by the fictional character of Charlotte Vale in the 1942 film Now Voyager 1.On the breaking of her own engagement to Elliot, Charlotte’s inner self says in voiceover ‘You fool, oh you fool. Now you’ll never have a home of your own, or a man of your own, or a child of your own’.

John Everett Millais, Lingering Autumn, 1890

Phew, not all autumnal Pre-Raphaelite works carry a doom and gloom metaphor. Millais’ Lingering Autumn (1890) like Autumn Leaves juxtaposes youth and the autumnal landscape, only in the former the sentiment is more celebratory in tone. In Lingering Autumn rather than using autumn as a metaphor for decay and loss Millais presents us with two types of beauty, each exquisite in their own right.

Also, hurray for Holman- Hunt who I suspect on the quiet was a bit of a sauce pot as his painting Love at First Sight suggests. We have to rewind slightly to before the image conscious Edith Holman- Hunt left her indelible chastened mark upon her husband’s legacy. Edith was in short a bit of tinker when it came to the whitewashing of her husband’s life and works. Anything that could destroy his sainted image was done away, like the original title of his 1848 painting Blackheath Park which perhaps given the content was just a little too ambiguous for the prim Edith. As you can see below, the painting showstwo figures, one male and one female in the beautiful wilderness of Blackheath Park, and I say wilderness because during the 19th century it truly was. In the background a dense patch of trees which although redolent with leaves show some signs of the onset of autumn. 2 In the foreground there are a stag and two does watching the man and woman who have turned to look back at one another as they pass.

If we analyse the pictorial elements further we can suggest a reading of the work whose theme is far saucier than that of Edith’s later applied title. Things to note:

  1. A well dressed man and unchaperoned woman out and about in an untamed desolate spot. Not exactly the image of moral propriety cultivated by middling sort is it?
  2. In folklore, a discipline that was of keen interest to the Victorians, the stag is a symbol of male virility.
  3. With further reference to stags and virility, the onset of autumn also marks the commencement of the rut!

Mon dieu,I can hear the knicker elastic snapping from here!Lust at First Sight might be a little more apt………(sorry Edith). Of course I’m being frivolous and mine is only one of a plethora of possible narratives for the piece. Perhaps Holman-Hunt was deliberately ambiguous with his title to encourage rather than impose a meaning upon the viewer. Either way it’s a lot of fun to speculate!

Well there we have it, Pre-Raphaelite autumn in a (chest)nut shell, it might all be sex and death but at least it’s beautiful while it’s about it.

1 The title Now Voyager was taken from a line by the poet Walt Whitman, who was acquainted with, and much admired by the Pre-Raphaelites’, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

2 A note on the back of canvas indicates that the picture was produced in the autumn of 1848. Primary evidence also shows that the PRB were involved in group outings to sketch in the area at this time.

A Readymade Man Ray

The joy of a new piece of tech -in this case a phone- is discovering all the weird and wonderful things it can do in addition to its obvious function. The cameras on phones have come on leaps and bounds haven’t they! Most produce better quality images than the average small compact camera these days and in some cases out perform their SLR counterparts. What makes camera phone photography interesting is the plethora of effect options that can be applied. Some of the effects, such as ‘warm vintage’ etc can be a bit twee, but solarisation… now that’s exciting.

Solarisation is a technique in traditional film photography and is achieved through the overexposure of either the negative or print to light. Many claim to have discovered it or at least to be aware of it; everyone from Daguerre (1787-1851) to Herschel (1792-1871) acknowledged that the overexposure of the negative within the camera produced an interesting reverse negative effect on some tones when printed. It was however the St Helens, Merseyside, born John William Draper who first coined the term solarisation. It didn’t take long before photographers discovered that the same effect could be achieved in the darkroom and was duly dubbed the Pseudo-Solarisation by H. de la Blanchere in 1859 in L’Art du Photographe. Blanchere described how briefly exposing a silver halide print to white light produced the same results that overexposure in the camera had achieved. Despite their knowledge of the effect, photographers regarded a solarised image as a defective one, not seeing the artistic possibilities of the technique. That said, the academic Janet Buerger has suggested that the below photographs taken by the artist Edgar Degas in 1881 may be an early artistic experiment with the effect.

Perhaps the most famous exponent of Pseudo-Solarisation was the artist Man Ray, who produced some astoundingly beautiful images in which his assistant and muse Lee Miller was intrinsic in more ways than one. It was Miller who accidentally ‘rediscovered’ solarisation while working as an assistant in Man Ray’s studio. Ray was reputedly so intrigued by the effect that he worked to perfect the technique for producing consistent solarised images. Below are a small number of Man Ray’s solarised images, including a self-portrait and a number of images for which Miller was the model.

From an art historical perspective one has to wonder what Man Ray would have made of the immediacy of the camera phone and its solarising filter. Would he have loathed it for removing the skill and the artistry in the physical making. Or in the spirit of all his other readymades would he have seen the camera phone and its solarising filter as an extension of that practice? I suspect the latter.

From the plethora of professional and talented photographers I return to an amateur one and her camera phone. To date I have ‘solarised’ the cats, flowers in the garden and will, if I can get him to sit still long enough, solarise my beau. And just to prove that my naffness knows no bounds, I’ve embraced the spirit of Ray and Miller and solarised a miniature bronze reproduction of The Winged Victory of Samothrace – well it is a readymade after all!

For more photography by Man Ray please visit

and the for the wonderful Lee Miller please visit




“Are ‘Friends’ Pre-Raphaelite?”

I admit it; I suffer from the perennial disease of 6 degrees of Pre-Raphaelite separation. I am able one way or another to link seemingly disparate things to my favourite art movement. This one however appears to be a bit of a no-brainer.

This morning I was sent a link to First time ever I saw your face by Broadcaster feat Peggy Seeger (which you should all listen to because it’s fab). I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Tubeway Army’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”. A quick tappity tap on my keyboard and up popped the cover art for the single, I was astonished.

The visual parity between the cover image of Numan and Solomon’s paintings Creation (1890) and Night (1890) is striking. Like Solomon’s paintings the record sleeve features a figure (a pouty Numan) shown against a dark and foreboding sky, replete with crescent moon. I love how the haziness of the Numan image even manages to look like it was rendered in the watercolour medium used by Solomon in the paintings cited.

Creation (1890) by Simeon Solomon
Night (1890) by Simeon Solomon

I have no idea if the parity was deliberate; interest in the Pre-Raphaelite movement was certainly high during the 70’s. Either way it is very striking!

A short biography of Simeon Solomon

Born in 1840, the youngest of 8 children Solomon was born into a prominent Jewish family. His Father, Michael, was a successful merchant and his mother Kate (nee Levy, an artist. Like his siblings Abraham and Rebecca, Simeon Solomon carved out a successful artistic career. During his early career Solomon concentrated chiefly on Hebraic imagery in a Pre-Raphaelite style. However from 1863 onwards it is clear that his style was moving away from Pre-Raphaelite ‘truth to nature’ and becoming increasingly aesthetic and symbolist. By late 1860’s he was painting figures such as Bacchus from classical mythology. This caused consternation and led to the accusation that he had abandoned his Hebrew roots.

In 1873 Solomon was arrested and charged with attempting to commit sodomy in a public toilet. His reputation did not recover from this and he found himself largely friendless and destitute. In 1884, suffering from severe alcoholism Solomon entered the workhouse where he continued to paint and draw up until his death in 1905.

During his career Solomon produced some of the most remarkably sensitive and beautiful images of the era. A selection of Solomon’s work can be found in the artwork databases at

Dear Mr Lee, Shakespeare is a national disaster

Its Shakespeare’s birthday hurrah!

I love Shakespeare, however I’m feeling a bit mischievous and here offer the irreverent musings of the poet UA Fanthorpe. Although I don’t share the adolescent protagonist’s assertion that ‘Shakespeare… is a national disaster’, I am amused by it.

UA Fanthorpe had a distinguished career as a teacher, but chose to turn her back on it to become a receptionist and pursue her interest in writing poetry. I’m so glad she did. Her poetry is linguistically simple, but extremely witty.

More about UA Fanthorpe can be found here:

Dear Mr Lee

Dear Mr Lee (Mr Smart says
it’s rude to call you Laurie, but that’s
how I think of you, having lived with you
really all year), Dear Mr Lee
(Laurie) I just want you to know
I used to hate English, and Mr Smart
is roughly my least favourite person,
and as for Shakespeare (we’re doing him too)
I think he’s a national disaster, with all those jokes
that Mr Smart has to explain why they’re jokes,
and even then no one thinks they’re funny,
And T. Hughes and P. Larkin and that lot
in our anthology, not exactly a laugh a minute,
pretty gloomy really, so that’s why
I wanted to say Dear Laurie (sorry) your book’s
the one that made up for the others, if you
could see my copy you’d know it’s lived
with me, stained with Coke and Kitkat
and when I had a cold, and I often
take you to bed with me to cheer me up
so Dear Laurie, I want to say sorry,
I didn’t want to write a character-sketch
of your mother under headings, it seemed
wrong somehow when you’d made her so lovely,
and I didn’t much like those questions
about social welfare in the rural community
and the seasons as perceived by an adolescent,
I didn’t think you’d want your book
read that way, but bits of it I know by heart,
and I wish I had your uncles and your half-sisters
and lived in Slad, though Mr Smart says your view
of the class struggle is naive, and the examiners
won’t be impressed by me knowing so much by heart,
they’ll be looking for terse and cogent answers
to their questions, but I’m not much good at terse and cogent,
I’d just like to be like you, not mind about being poor,
see everything bright and strange, the way you do,
and I’ve got the next one out of the Public Library,
about Spain, and I asked Mum about learning
to play the fiddle, but Mr Smart says Spain isn’t
like that any more, it’s all Timeshare villas
and Torremolinos, and how old were you
when you became a poet? (Mr Smart says for anyone
with my punctuation to consider poetry as a career
is enough to make the angels weep).

PS Dear Laurie, please don’t feel guilty for
me failing the exam, it wasn’t your fault,
it was mine, and Shakespeare’s
and maybe Mr Smart’s, I still love Cider
it hasn’t made any difference.

The Erlking

Take care! Take care! Heed this warning when travelling through woods and forests, because the Erlking and his Daughter live there.

Traditionally, the Erlking is a malevolent spirit who preys upon travellers as they pass through the forest, ultimately carrying them to to their deaths. There have been numerous ballads inspired by this familiar figure from German folklore, but perhaps the most well known is Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s The Erlking. Goethe was inspired by the ballad The Erlkings’s Daughter by Johann Gottfried Von Herder, which was itself based on a Danish folk ballad, Sir Oluf he rides. In both of these earlier ballads the malevolent spirits are females, who haunt the woods and prey upon adult males. However in his poem, Goethe departs from the traditional archetype by presenting the malign figure as male and a stealer of children’s lives.

Below is a loose translation of Goethe’s poem by Sir Walter Scott, in which Scott successfully captures the eeriness of the original. It is suffused with dark and evocative imagery, reinforcing the folk tale idea of the wild wood as a marginal space. A place where the rules of society cease to exist, and where a life is easily forfeited.

The Erl-King

O! Who rides by night thro’ the woodland so wild?
It is the fond Father embracing his child;
And close the Boy nestles within his lov’d arm,
From the blast of the tempest to keep himself warm.

“O Father! see yonder, see yonder!” he says.
“My Boy, upon what dost thou fearfully gaze?”
“O! ’tis the ERL-KING with his staff and his shroud!”
“No, my Love! it is but a dark wreath of the cloud.”

[The Phantom Speaks]

“O! wilt thou go with me, thou loveliest Child!
By many gay sports shall thy hours be beguil’d;
My Mother keeps for thee many a fair toy,
And many a fine flow’r shall she pluck for my Boy.”

“O Father! my Father! and did you not hear,
The ERL-KING whisper so close in my ear?”
“Be still, my lov’d Darling, my Child be at ease!
It was but the wild blast as it howl’d thro’ the trees.”

[The Phantom]

“O wilt thou go with me, thou loveliest Boy!
My Daughter shall tend thee with care and with joy;
She shall bear thee so lightly thro’ wet and thro’ wild,
And hug thee, and kiss thee, and sing to my Child.”

“O Father! my Father! and saw you not plain
The ERL-KING’s pale daughter glide past thro’ the rain?”
“O no, my heart’s treasure! I knew it full soon,
It was the Grey Willow that danc’d to the moon.”

[The Phantom]

“Come with me, come with me, no longer delay!
Or else, silly Child, I will drag thee away.”
“O Father! O Father! now, now, keep your hold!
The ERL-KING has seiz’d me – his grasp is so cold!”

Sore trembled the Father; he spurr’d thro’ the wild,
Clasping close to his bosom his shuddering Child;
He reaches his dwelling in doubt and in dread;
But, clasp’d to his bosom, the Infant was dead!

It is difficult when reading any of the ballads mentioned not to think of how the Erlking has been reinterpreted in more contemporary literature. Parity between the life stealing Erlking and Tolkien’s Nazgul and Rowling’s dementors is so easily found.




Hollyhocks, Heart’s Ease and Phlox: Valentine’s Day and the Language of Flowers

If you’re going to give the object of your desire or loved one flowers this Valentine’s Day, take inspiration from The Language of Flowers.

Popularised in the Victorian era The Language of Flowers ‘constitutes a language, which may be made the medium of pleasant and amusing interchange of thought between men and women’. The sentiments attached to flower names are wonderfully diverse, and for every situation there is seemingly an appropriate flower. So be unconventional this year and give something other than a red rose. Be inventive give seeds, living plants or of course cut flowers.

A small snippet of Flowers and meanings:

Bachelor’s button (cornflower) – Hope in love
Coreopsis – Love at first sight
Forget-me-not – True love
Heart’s Ease – Think of me
Heart’s Ease, Purple – You occupy my thoughts
Pansy – Think of me
Phlox – Our souls united
Double red pink – Pure, ardent love
Rosemary – Your presence revives me
White roses – I am worthy of you
Maiden’s Blush Rose – If you love me you will find me out
Tulip – Declaration of love
Variegated Tulip – Beautiful eyes

If you have given any of the above and then receive any of the following in return, I’m afraid it’s not good news!
Acacia, rose – Friendship
Basil – Hatred
Candytuft – Indifference
Carnation, yellow – Disdain
Convululus major – Dead hope
Mourning Bride (scabious) – Unfortunate attachment
Variegated pink – Refusal
White roses (withered) – Transient impression
Yellow rose – Decrease of love
Rue – Disdain
Tansy – I declare against you
Trumpet flower – Separation

All definitions taken from The Language of Flowers, Etiquette: Rules and Usages of The Best Society, (Melbourne: PRC, 1886)