In the latest issue:

Botanic Macaroni

Steven Shapin

What made the Vikings tick?

Tom Shippey

In the Lab

Rupert Beale

Will there be a Brexit deal?

Anand Menon

Short Cuts: Under New Management

Rory Scothorne

Out-Tissoted

Bridget Alsdorf

Sarah Moss

Blake Morrison

Poem: ‘Country Music’

Ange Mlinko

On the Trail of Garibaldi

Tim Parks

Art Lessons

Peter Campbell

You’ll like it when you get there

Tom Crewe

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini

‘The Vanishing Half’

Joanna Biggs

At the Movies: ‘The Truth’

Michael Wood

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders

Poem: ‘Siri U’

Jorie Graham

Diary: Getting into Esports

John Lanchester

Close
Close

Safe in his excavated gallery

Christina Rossetti

Lady Lassetter sits at her mirror;
presented as a woodland frieze in May,
her drapery is appliquéd
with specimens of British botany.
On the dresser’s marbled top
a signed invitation can explain
this flowered and zoomorphic frock,
designed to be a favourite verse sartorialised.

So, astride her décolletage squirrels skip and catch
as leaping lambs begin to settle
the low-hilled grazing of her frontage.
Sequin birds perch undiscovered in her pits;
a wood pigeon finds foot in the peach nook of her coccyx.

Flowers and fruit are strewn!
There’s a mouse on her bustle
and caterpillars, snails and slugs
decorate an undulating hem; her sleeve is frilled
in hedgehog quills, all for this infernal ball in Piccadilly.

‘George, you don’t suppose it’s too much,
the flowers? I don’t want them to fall out of my hair
and into my soup: though they are quite wonderful.’

Sir George appears from the bathroom
costumed as a fat toad:
‘I hardly think one can talk any longer
of too much. I think much was some time ago.’

‘Oh George! You are sour. At times I’ve the definite suspicion
you don’t care a jot for the world’s respect.
And everyone thinks you’re the creative one!
With an attitude like that, how do you ever expect
to become a proper Academician?’

Sir George, in green pleats of taffeta,
imagines, quite gently, that he’s somewhere else entirely
colouring a stream by a hidden spot in Cumbria,
forming with a repeated dab
shrub-dressed hills that are a gathering of verdant cloud …

With learnt precision,
Lady Lassetter interrupts this silly vision,
instructs the servant girl loudly not to stoop –
and go chase down a hansom cab.

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