Love and Hate

Stephanie E. Chatfield  

Love and Hate

Ope not thy lips, thou foolish one,
Nor turn to me thy face;
The blasts of heaven shall strike thee down
Ere I will give thee grace.

Take thou thy shadow from my path,
Nor turn to me and pray;
The wild wild winds thy dirge may sing
Ere I will bid thee stay.

Turn thou away thy false dark eyes,
Nor gaze upon my face;
Great love I bore thee: now great hate
Sits grimly in its place.

All changes pass me like a dream,
I neither sing nor pray;
And thou art like the poisonous tree
That stole my life away.

8 thoughts on “Love and Hate

  1. This poem is probably my favorite of Lizzie’s. These lines are so powerful and full of feeling. No prim Victorian reservations here:
    All changes pass me like a dream,
    I neither sing nor pray;
    And thou art like the poisonous tree
    That stole my life away.

  2. Bitter, bitter, bitter, that poem.

    Did I mention bitter?

    I wonder if, when she’d had it “up to here” with Rossetti’s shenanigans, Lizzie was really as verbally abusive as some accounts would have it. If she was, why would she feel the need to spew such vitriol in her poetry? Also, she seemed to have done much of her venting about him with other people, Maddox Brown and Emma in particular. I imagine Lizzie as meek and submissive UNTIL she had just had more than she could take–and then, Katy bar the door! I like to think, although she manipulated Rossetti’s emotions as much as he did hers to keep him in her life (codependent, these two?), that she TRIED to check her temper as long as possible (for fear he would abandon her permanently). Otherwise, she must have been a complete shrew. I hope not. I have to give her a lot of credit, though, for keeping it together as long as she did with someone who was a class A “gaslighter.” Not that Rossetti could help it or was at all aware of it, but geez, what a challenge for Lizzie. I’ve said it before – my heart goes out to both of them.

  3. Yes, you can feel Lizzie’s anger here. That’s why I love this poem. Because she doesn’t hold back.
    My heart goes out to both of them as well. So in love and yet seemingly so miserable at times…

  4. Hi Stephanie
    Lizzie’s poems must have been known by at least some contemporaries; there was discussion about including them in a volume with Christina Rossetti’s circa 1864 but she declined and returned them to DGR. She found them “beautiful” but “almost hopelessly sad for publication en masse”. She found their tone “painfully despondent”. Some of the poems were eventually included with Gabriel’s whilst others were published in WMR’s memoir of his brother.

    I think today we would see them as a call for help. Gabriel only found out their contents after it was too late. However, appearances were everything in nineteenth century England; even if he had discovered he would not have known what to do. Although he was part of the artistic establishment, albeit probably at that time only on the periphery, Victorian society in general, was rigid and unforgiving; something that is difficult for us to understand from the distance of the 21st century.

  5. There appears to have been something going on between Lizzie and Robert Browning as early as 1855 when Lizzie’s illustration of Pippa Passes was shared with Browning and she first met him, although DGR had been a friend/acquaintance of Browning for several years. It would be surprising if Lizzie did not discuss her poetry with Browning then and over the next few years, and their friendship perhaps caused some jealousy that may have been the cause of DGR’s unhappiness with her and Browning when they met in Paris later in 1855.

    I can imagine a lot of empathy between Browning and Lizzie when you consider that Browning was also married to a poet who he wrote to, met and married after reading her poetry. Elizabeth Barrett was also in poor health like Lizzie and addicted to laudenum. Browning tended to travel and socialise on his own leaving his wife was at home in Italy, so he could well have developed a close interest in Lizzie and her poetry.

    Have a look at some of Browning’s poems of 1855 onwards. I could be persuaded that there is a hint at otherwise undisclosed feelings for Lizzie. After all, given the circumstances of Browning’s own wife, compare how Browning could sympathise with Lizzie as a woman poet in poor health with how DGR behaved towards her. Wouldn’t it be natural for Lizzie to have some affinity with a man who could understood her and treat her with respect for what she was trying to achieve?

    While Lizzie was travelling ‘for her health’ later in 1855, it is most likely that she accepted Ruskin’s money for the trip so that she could attend the L’exhibition Universelle de 1855 that attracted artists and poets from all over Europe that year. I believe that this was the reason for Lizzie, Browning, DRG and others to meet up in Paris at that time.

  6. Do you think “the poisonous tree” is a reference to legendary Upas Tree of Java? “A tale spread by Erasmus Darwin in the late 18th cent of a tree supposed to kill all life w/in 15 miles”? See Note 5 to chapter 32 of Penguin edition of Martin Chuzzlewit by CD.

  7. “I wonder if, when she’d had it “up to here” with Rossetti’s shenanigans, Lizzie was really as verbally abusive as some accounts would have it.”

    -Until one has been betrayed the way Lizzie was betrayed, with all the psychological abuse that goes along with it, it is worth refraining from judgments about how verbally abusive she was. The pain of infidelity is enormous, and if she showed her ire verbally, she was well within her rights to do so, IMHO.

  8. They certainly were not good for each other. She in love, he in lust. That isn’t to say he did not have love for her – amongst love for other women, but he was hardly the monogomous sort and she was. How many couples have been mismatched that way through the ages? Countless, and it can be the other way around too, with the man wanting monogamy and the woman unable to stop herself (I had a friend like that. She was a lovely person, enormously helpful and kind toward her family and others – and it was a source of great distress to her that if a nice seeming man showed her interest, she just couldn’t help but fall into his arms).

    As much as they each made concerted efforts to break permanently from one another, they just couldn’t.

    She would have known that he and she would by then be unable to be good enough parents for any child (be truthful, would you have wanted them as your parents? When Lizzie was healthy she would have made a good mother, but not in such unrelenting ill mental (laudenum) and physical health). Death seemed the only way out.

    She couldn’t have known that instead of setting Gabri as well as herself free (for her, also free of illness and terrible physical pain) it would cause him lifelong misery.

    Definitely co-dependant and definitely not good for each other. Pity they ever met, tbh, but then his blase lack of fidelity could have dragged down most woman. Not his fault exactly. He just couldn’t empathise enough with Lizzie to not be unfaithful. He was just one of those type of people. It was his nature.

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