Lizzie Siddal in the Bath  by Emma Harding

Lizzie Siddal in the Bath

by Emma Harding

Lizzie Siddal in the Bath

My fourth drowning this week.
For the first hour I float,
removed to a muffled world,
white tin beneath my fingers.

My thoughts purl from scene
to scene, settle at Charlotte St
and a long winter evening
reading Shakespeare, how

when they handed out parts
and gave me Ophelia
I thought What a pretty name,
not knowing more than that.

A sitting of ghosts and family –
Christina a grave-eyed queen,
William both spirit and king,
Dante sweating as the Prince.

But wine helped me forget
my lack of learning; I heard
her music on my tongue –
the mad can say the most.

Mr Millais – call me Johnnie –
is always thoughtful, placed
oil lamps beneath the bath
(snuffed by a sudden gust).

I smelt their cooling wicks
but Mr Millais painted on
and I could not raise myself,
somehow, to ripple the silence.

An hour, maybe two, passes.
I’ve had too much of water,
but the white of the ceiling
pilots me towards sleep.

But my dear, you’re freezing!
A hand pulls me up and out,
pond-heavy, water sluicing
from my antique lace.

Dripping before his canvas,
I sneeze to see the girl
who’s me and not me,
delivered, dead in the water.


Emma Harding was the winner in the main category of the NCLA’s Water Poetry Competition 2012.

The NCLA Water Poetry Competition was judged by W.N. Herbert and John Burnside. The ceremony was held at Northern Stage on 23rd February 2012.

Photographs of the event can be viewed here.

NCLA Water Poetry Competition website.