Friday, 2 September 2011

The Kissed Mouth

There is an excellent blog called ‘The Kissed Mouth’ (after Rossetti’s Bocca Bociata), which deals with Pre-Raphaelite art in a very lively way; and its title makes me wonder which are the most memorable kisses in Morris’s work.

Four examples leap to mind. First, the kiss between Lancelot and Guenevere in the garden in ‘The Defence of Guenevere’ where, as the Queen puts it, ‘both our mouths went wandering in one way,/And aching sorely, met among the leaves’ (ll.136-7). It’s a curious formulation, which reminds me of how the fragmented part-objects of the human body – eyes, arms, hands - live their autonomous life in T.S. Eliot’s early poetry. The Morrisian mouths go wandering on their way towards the compromising kiss, while their human owners dissociate themselves from the truth of what is actually happening here.

The second kiss is that imagined in ‘Concerning Geffray Teste Noire’, which is surely the ultimate Pre-Raphaelite femme fatale kiss of all time, coming at you through the air as lethally as a Bruce Lee shuriken: ‘I saw you kissing once, like a curved sword/That bites with all its edge, did your lips lie’. Better run fast if you ever see that one coming!

As for socialist kisses, well, the one William Guest receives from Annie in News from Nowhere, which ‘almost took away from me my desire for the expedition’ up the Thames (ch.XXI), must have been pretty impressive.

And finally, Morgan le Fay, in ‘Ogier the Dane’ from The Earthly Paradise, has lips that might ‘give at last the kiss unspeakable’, which sounds intriguing. That wouldn’t be a mid-Victorian euphemism for oral sex, by any chance, would it?


Tony Pinkney said...

And see my earlier, related post on 'Birdalone's Many Kisses', 30 November 2007. Gosh, nearly four years ago ...

mo said...

hmmm...the kiss that dare not speak its name...i like your hypothesis.

Tony Pinkney said...

One of the very earliest reviews of Morris's poetry picked up on the "great amount of kissing" exhibited in it ('Saturday Review', November 1858). Absolutely right!

Tony Pinkney said...

I realise, very belatedly, that I might also have mentioned that "poem about kisses" (as Jack Lindsay terms it) that the young Morris wrote at Water House, Walthamstow, at Easter 1855 and sent to Cormell Price - plenty of interesting kisses there too!

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