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Lilith by John Collier August 29, 2008

Posted by Giselle in Art.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I think John Collier is just amazing! The way he draws a woman is with such accuracy and observance to detail..

Actually, there are many others too in the Pre-Raphaelite period whose paintings are one among my favorites.. But I shall get to them in other posts.

I had posted a piece about one of John Collier’ paintings earlier:



and I think he has far more fans than I expected coz’ that painting seems to be under scrutiny a lot!

Now, take for instance this painting- Lilith (1892). It pictures the sexuality between Lilith and the snake..Studies say that the picture clearly represents the sexual scenes between Lilith and the serpent in “Eden Bower” written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

” It was Lilith the wife of Adam:
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Not a drop of her blood was human,
But she was made like a soft sweet woman.

Lilith stood on the skirts of Eden;
(And O the bower of the hour!)
She was the first that thence was driven;
With her was hell and with Eve was heaven.

In the ear of the Snake said Lilith :—
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
‘To thee I come when the rest is over;
A snake was I when thou wast my lover.

‘I was the fairest snake in Eden:
(And O the bower and the hour!)
By the earth’s will, new form and feature
Made me a wife for the earth’s new creature.

‘Take me thou as I come from Adam:
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Once again shall my love subdue thee;
The past is past and I am come to thee.

‘O but Adam was thrall to Lilith!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
All the threads of my hair are golden,
And there in a net his heart was holden.

‘O and Lilith was queen of Adam!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
All the day and the night together
My breath could shake his soul like a feather.

‘What great joys had Adam and Lilith!—
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Sweet close rings of the serpent’s twining,
As heart in heart lay sighing and pining.

What bright babes had Adam and Lilith!—
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Shapes that coiled in the woods and waters,
Glittering sons and radiant daughters.

‘O thou God, the Lord God of Eden!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Say, was this fair body for no man,
That of Adam’s flesh thou mak’st him a woman?

‘O thou Snake, the King-snake of Eden!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
God’s strong will our necks are under,
But thou and I may cleave it in sunder.

‘Help, sweet Snake, sweet lover of Lilith!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
And let God learn how I loved and hated
Man in the image of God created.

‘Help me once against Eve and Adam!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Help me once for this one endeavour,
And then my love shall be thine for ever!

‘Strong is God, the fell foe of Lilith:
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Nought in heaven or earth may affright him;
But join thou with me and we will smite him.

‘Strong is God, the great God of Eden:
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Over all he made he hath power;
But lend me thou thy shape for an hour!

‘Lend thy shape for the love of Lilith!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Look, my mouth and cheek are ruddy,
And thou art cold, and fire is my body.

‘Lend thy shape for the hate of Adam!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
That he may wail my joy that forsook him,
And curse the day when the bride-sleep took him.

‘Lend thy shape for the shame of Eden!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Is not the foe-God weak as the foeman
When love grows hate in the heart of a woman?

‘Would’st thou know the heart’s hope of Lilith?
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Then bring thou close thine head till it glisten
Along my breast, and lip me and listen.

‘Am I sweet, O sweet Snake of Eden?
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Then ope thine ear to my warm mouth’s cooing
And learn what deed remains for our doing.

‘Thou didst hear when God said to Adam:—
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
“Of all this wealth I have made thee warden;
Thou’rt free to eat of the trees of the garden:

‘”Only of one tree eat not in Eden;
(And O the bower and the hour!)
All save one I give to thy freewill,—
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

‘O my love, come nearer to Lilith!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
In thy sweet folds bind me and bend me,
And let me feel the shape thou shalt lend me!

‘In thy shape I’ll go back to Eden;
(And O the bower and the hour!)
In these coils that Tree will I grapple,
And stretch this crowned head forth by the apple.

‘Lo, Eve bends to the breath of Lilith!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
O how then shall my heart desire
All her blood as food to its fire!

‘Lo, Eve bends to the words of Lilith!—
(And O the bower and the hour!)
“Nay, this Tree’s fruit,–why should ye hate it,
Or Death be born the day that ye ate it?

‘”Nay, but on that great day in Eden,
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
By the help that in this wise Tree is,
God knows well ye shall be as He is.”

‘Then Eve shall eat and give unto Adam;
(And O the bower and the hour!)
And then they both shall know they are naked,
And their hearts ache as my heart hath ached.

‘Aye, let them hide in the trees of Eden,
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
As in the cool of the day in the garden
God shall walk without pity or pardon.

‘Hear, thou Eve, the man’s heart in Adam!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Of his brave words hark to the bravest:—
“This the woman gave that thou gavest.”

‘Hear Eve speak, yea, list to her, Lilith!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Feast thine heart with words that shall sate it—
“This the serpent gave and I ate it.”

‘O proud Eve, cling close to thine Adam,
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Driven forth as the beasts of his naming
By the sword that for ever is flaming.

‘Know, thy path is known unto Lilith!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
While the blithe birds sang at thy wedding,
There her tears grew thorns for thy treading.

‘O my love, thou Love-snake of Eden!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
O to-day and the day to come after!
Loose me, love,–give breath to my laughter!

‘O bright Snake, the Death-worm of Adam!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Wreathe thy neck with my hair’s bright tether,
And wear my gold and thy gold together!

‘On that day on the skirts of Eden,
(And O the bower and the hour!)
In thy shape shall I glide back to thee,
And in my shape for an instant view thee.

‘But when thou’rt thou and Lilith is Lilith,
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
In what bliss past hearing or seeing
Shall each one drink of the other’s being!

‘With cries of “Eve!” and “Eden!” and “Adam!”
(And O the bower and the hour!)
How shall we mingle our love’s caresses,
I in thy coils, and thou in my tresses!

‘With those names, ye echoes of Eden,
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Fire shall cry from my heart that burneth,—
“Dust he is and to dust returneth!”

‘Yet to-day, thou master of Lilith,—
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Wrap me round in the form I’ll borrow
And let me tell thee of sweet to-morrow.

‘In the planted garden eastward in Eden,
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Where the river goes forth to water the garden,
The springs shall dry and the soil shall harden.

‘Yea, where the bride-sleep fell upon Adam,
(And O the bower and the hour!)
None shall hear when the storm-wind whistles
Through roses choked among thorns and thistles.

‘Yea, beside the east-gate of Eden,
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Where God joined them and none might sever,
The sword turns this way and that for ever.

‘What of Adam cast out of Eden?
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Lo! with care like a shadow shaken,
He tills the hard earth whence he was taken.

‘What of Eve too, cast out of Eden?
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
Nay, but she, the bride of God’s giving,
Must yet be mother of all men living.

‘Lo, God’s grace, by the grace of Lilith!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
To Eve’s womb, from our sweet to-morrow,
God shall greatly multiply sorrow.

‘Fold me fast, O God-snake of Eden!
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
What more prize than love to impel thee?
Grip and lip my limbs as I tell thee!

‘Lo! two babes for Eve and for Adam!
(And O the bower and the hour!)
Lo! sweet Snake, the travail and treasure,—
Two men-children born for their pleasure!

‘The first is Cain and the second Abel:
(Eden bower’s in flower.)
The soul of one shall be made thy brother,
And thy tongue shall lap the blood of the other.’
(And O the bower and the hour!) “


[Firstly, I really liked this poem and the way it is written.. As we read it, we can feel the love, the loss, the vengeance..When we look into the history of Lilith, it feels as though everyone was against her.. For those who might take insult at the poem and the image, I just thought I would add that Lilith’s origins predate the Christian bible by a good three thousand years.] & Now, after having read this poem, you can see how Lilith is compared to the serpents and how she finally (according to mythology) became this dreaded monster who kills others children and young men..

This painting is from the pre-Raphaelite period when the Victorian era was still at its height..1892. John Collier depicted Lilith as a goddess of lust and passion — she brings sexual ecstasy to her worshippers and destruction to anyone clueless enough to oppose her.

Originally a Mesopotamian storm demon associated with the desert and disease, the figure of Lilith grew to be a demigoddess in the Mesopotamian world, a demon queen in the Judaic culture, and a popular figure in Neopagan worship. She brought disease and death to the unworthy, and came to be viewed as a goddess of retribution. Her name means “beautiful maiden” in Sumerian. She’s barren, and in later Babylonian mythology, she’s described as a prostitute of Ishtar. Ishtar was believed to have sent her into the streets of Babylon to seduce its men and entice them from the beds of their wives.

Lilith is associated with sexuality and is often considered the mother of incubi and succubi.

For more information and let me tell you it will really pique your interest.. do view: http://www.paganwiki.org/index.php?title=Lilith




1. Rho - February 16, 2010

hi there… I’d like to know who the author of that awesome poem is. Would you dare telling me

Giselle - June 2, 2010

Hey.. the poem was written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I had mentioned that in the post.. and yes.. it is a beautiful poem, isn’t it?

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