This painting illustrates the poem Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barret Browning. Aurora is an aspiring poet. Her cousin Romney has proposed marriage but she rejects him in order to follow her vocation as a writer. She holds a book of her poems that Romney has derided in the past. This underlines her rejection of his offer to be his companion and helper.The poem describes Aurora dressed in white but here Arthur Hughes uses an unusual green to complement the garden setting. The white lilies symbolise Aurora’s purity and the single life she may lead dedicated to her art.