Close Reading

The concept of beauty has changed massively throughout the span of time due to the definition of beauty being biased, since it is defined by whoever is referencing that form of beauty. In the poem “The Lust of the Eyes” by Elizabeth Siddall, beauty is the focus of the poem. Beauty is interpreted in this poem through a negative manner despite the author being a female. The speaker of the poem comes off as a male speaking poorly of the woman of his desire. In this poem, this alluded male speaker is announcing how he sees beauty. In the poem “The Lust of the Eyes”, Elizabeth Siddall portrays her piece to show how a female possessing beauty will not only make her beauty her identity, but her beauty will lead the reader to believe that this desired and beautiful female is religiously lost.

The poem “The Lust of the Eyes” by Elizabeth Siddall is comprised of four stanzas, each stanza consisting of four lines. The entire poem holds an end rhyme scheme of ‘ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH’. In the first stanza of the poem, the male speaker starts the poem by introducing his infatuation with the woman of his desire. He starts in the first line by stating “I care not for my Lady’s soul”. By calling her his “Lady”, this female has been already subjectified into becoming this male speaker’s property; she is only a Lady, she has no name or characterization. She does not have her own identity in this poem, thus through being his Lady, she has been instantly turned into the male’s objectified property. In the second line of the poem, he goes on to contradict how in the first line, he does not care about her soul, meaning her true self, yet he “worship before her smile”. By stating this form of worship, the male speaker is showing that he only cares for this female, only due to her physical appeal which is in this case, her smile. In the third line of the first stanza, the speaker goes on to repeat the beginning of line one but explains another thing that he does not deem important about his female companion by stating, “I care not where be my Lady’s goal”. He explains that he does not care for her life ambitions however, in the fourth line of the stanza, he goes on to explain that her ambitions cannot be important since her beauty defines this woman, thus her beauty should be her ultimate goal and ambition in life, therefore, once her beauty is expected to be gone, due to age or any other reason, she will not need to have goals, since beauty is perceived to be defining and a form of identity in this poem.

The first stanza of the poem was created to explain what drew the speaker to the female, which was his infatuation with her beauty and this caused him to worship her and also made her beauty, her identity. The second stanza of this poem proceeds to explain this worship of beauty by setting up a visual imagery of the male speaker sitting below his Lady, thus helps prove the relationship dynamic between this couple and how it is based on a relationship of him worshiping only her physical appeal, “Low sit I down at my Lady’s feet” (5). To further prove his worship of only her physical beauty, he goes on to state in line six “Gazing through her wild eyes”, that by him gazing at her, he only shows the reader what he is doing, but he never gives the female any form of personal characteristics, other than explaining her physical appearance such as “her wild eyes”. In lines seven and eight in the second stanza of the poem, we do not know how the female feels when he gazes at her, yet we visualize and are introduced to how he feels “Smiling to think how my love will fleet/ When their starlike beauty dies.” in line seven, he explains that he knows this infatuation will end, and in line eight he explains that he knows the moment of which this love will end, and this moment will come when her “starlike beauty” which is what he sees in her eyes, ‘dies’. The second stanza explains his infatuation in the form of worshiping her beauty and knowing that this infatuation will die down and that love and worship will escape him once beauty dies. Beauty is the spark that is keeping the relationship between them alive.

To help the male speaker not feel guilty for admitting that her beauty is the spark to their relationship, and later announcing that he will leave this beautiful female, in stanza three he goes on to speak of religious beliefs. He opens the third stanza by repeating the beginning of the introductory line of the poem in stanza one, however introduces the concept of his Lady being religiously lost, by stating “I care not if my Lady pray” (9). In this stanza, he is explaining the his lady’s soul for the first time throughout the entire poem, by stating that she is flawed since she is not religious, thus giving the reader a negative portrayal of the beautiful female. In line ten of the poem “To our Father which is in Heaven”, he goes on to let the reader imply that he believes that his lady should be religious since he makes a plural and unified statement by using the word “our” when explaining the Holy Father. By using the flaw that she is not religious, the speaker gives the reader the vibe that this beautiful female is uncivilized and uneducated. In the final two lines of the third stanza “But for joy my quick heart’s pulses play/ For to me her love is given” (11-12), the speaker provides a metaphor of how his personified heart is happy that she loves him. This happiness can possibly be due to my personal interpretation of how he is happy that the beauty that he is worshiping loves him, however, he never announced whether he loves her or not, especially since the title of the poem is “The Lust of The Eyes” and this helps prove that his relationship with her is only a lust for her beauty through worshiping her and being infatuated by her, not for her actual personality and individuality.

Moving past the lust concept of their relationsip, in the final stanza of the poem, after explaining in stanza three that she is a sinner due to her lack of religious education and beliefs, he questions what will happen to her when her death nears, “Then who shall close my Lady’s eyes/ And who shall fold her hands?” (13-14). The entire poem has been a negative portrayal of the female, however in the first two lines of the fourth stanza, he makes it a positive portrayal of himself since he is showing that he cares, however, he contradicts this positive caring act just so that he does not feel guilty for planning out when he wants to abandon her, yet still chooses to go through with actually leaving her. She went from being his property to being an ownerless property since these two lines imply that he has already left her, due to him using the words “my lady’s eyes” (13) to show that she is his possession, but then “her hands” (14) to show that she is on her own now, however she cannot be independent because when her beauty is gone, she is not capable for caring for herself because she was never independent and always relied on him for help, so now someone else must help her or else she will not be able to survive. This could either be when he leaves her since her beauty is gone, or when she dies and she needs religious help. The final two lines of the poem suggest it to be her needing religious help since he questions what will happen to her spirit when it must encounter the holy power of which she knows nothing about, “Will any hearken if she cries/ Up to the unknown lands?”(15-16) which is why he uses the word “unknown” to explain her lack of religious enlightenment. After her beauty goes, which is when she dies or gets old, she will be religious or will inevitably encounter religion since that is all that she will have left, however it will be too late, since she has wasted her life, by only being beautiful

After discussing her expectant death, at the end of the poem, the male speaker gives the impression that not only is this female defined by her beauty, but her beauty became her identity, thus it made her a lost soul since she was not religious and it might be up to him to fix her while she is alive and before her spirit will eventually encounter the Superior Power above. This poem is a negative portrayal of the female subject and advocates for religious enlightenment. It is a poem written by a female but tells the story of a beautiful woman’s life through the eyes of the male speaker. The male speaker creates the female to appear in the poem and to the reader as lost, must be dependent on a male and her beauty since those two concepts make up her identity as well as his possession.

 

Work Cited

Siddall, Elizabeth. “The Lust of the Eyes.” LizzieSiddal.com. Word Press, 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2017. <http://lizziesiddal.com/portal/the-lust-of-the-eyes/>.