Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925)
American poetess

"Lacquer Prints" *


Upon the maple leaves
The dew shines red,
But on the lotus blossom
It has the pale transparence of tears.

Vicarious When I stand under the willow-tree Above the river, In my straw-coloured silken garment Embroidered with purple chrysanthemums, It is not at the bright water That I am gazing, But at your portrait, Which I have caused to be painted On my fan.

Near Kioto As I crossed over the bridge of Ariwarano Narikira, I saw that the waters were purple With the floating leaves of maple.

Yoshiwara Lament Golden peacocks Under blossoming cherry-trees, But on all the wide sea There is no boat.

A Year Passes Beyond the porcelain fence of the pleasure garden, I hear the frogs in the blue-green rice-fields; But the sword-shaped moon Has cut my heart in two.

Autumn All day I have watched the purple vine leaves Fall into the water. And now in the moonlight they still fall, But each leaf is fringed with silver.

The Emperor’s Garden Once, in the sultry heats of Midsummer, An Emperor caused the miniature mountains in his garden To be covered with white silk, That so crowned They might cool his eyes With the sparkle of snow.

Meditation A wise man, Watching the stars pass across the sky, Remarked: In the upper air the fireflies move more slowly.

One of the "Hundred Views of Fuji" by Hokusai Being thirsty, I filled a cup with water, And, behold! Fuji-yama lay upon the water like a dropped leaf !

Nuance Even the iris bends When a butterfly lights upon it.

Nuit Blanche The chirping of crickets in the night Is intermittent, Like the twinkling of stars.

Spring Dawn He wore a coat With gold and red maple leaves, He was girt with the two swords, He carried a peony lantern. When I awoke, There was only the blue shadow of the plum-tree Upon the shôji.

Again the New Year Festival I have drunk your health In the red-lacquer wine cups, But the wind-bells on the bronze lanterns In my garden Are corroded and fallen.

The Kagoes of a Returning Traveller Diagonally between the cryptomerias, What I took for the flapping of wings Was the beating feet of your runners, O my Lord !

Outside a Gate On the floor of the empty palanquin The plum petals constantly increase.

Autumn Haze Is it a dragon fly or maple leaf That settles softly down upon the water ?

A Lover If I could catch the green lantern of firefly I could see to write you a letter.

To a Husband Brighter than the fireflies upon the Uji River Are your words in the dark, Beloved.

Road to the Yoshiwara Coming to you along the Nihon Embankment Suddenly the road was darkened By a flock of wild geese Crossing the moon.

A Daimyo’s Oiran When I hear your runners shouting: “Get down ! Get down !” Then I dress my hair With the little chrysanthemums.

Constancy Although so many years, Still the vows we made each other Remain tied to the great trunk Of the seven separate trees In the courtyard of the Crimson Temple At Nara.

(1912 - 1919)

Free Fantasia on Japanese Themes

All the afternoon there has been a chirping of birds,   
And the sun lies warm and still 
on the western sides of swollen branches.   
There is no wind;   
Even the little twigs at the ends of the branches do not move,   
And the needles of the pines are solid           
Bands of inarticulated blackness   
Against the blue-white sky.   
Still, but alert;   
And my heart is still and alert,   
Passive with sunshine,    
Avid of adventure.   
I would experience new emotions,   
Submit to strange enchantments,   
Bend to influences   
Bizarre, exotic,    
Fresh with burgeoning.   
I would climb a sacred mountain,   
Struggle with other pilgrims up a steep path through pine-trees,   
Above to the smooth, treeless slopes,   
And prostrate myself before a painted shrine,    
Beating my hands upon the hot earth,   
Quieting my eyes upon the distant sparkle   
Of the faint spring sea.   
I would recline upon a balcony   
In purple curving folds of silk,   
And my dress should be silvered with a pattern   
Of butterflies and swallows,   
And the black band of my obi   
Should flash with gold circular threads,   
And glitter when I moved.   
I would lean against the railing   
While you sang to me of wars   
Past and to come -   
Sang, and played the samisen.   
Perhaps I would beat a little hand drum   
In time to your singing;   
Perhaps I would only watch the play of light   
Upon the hilt of your two swords.   
I would sit in a covered boat,   
Rocking slowly to the narrow waves of a river,   
While above us, an arc of moving lanterns,   
Curved a bridge,   
A hiss of gold   
Blooming out of darkness,   
Rockets exploded,    
And died in a soft dripping of colored stars.   
We would float between the high trestles,   
And drift away from other boats,   
Until the rockets flared soundless,   
And their falling stars hung silent in the sky,   
Like wistaria clusters above the ancient entrance of a temple.   
I would anything   
Rather than this cold paper;   
With outside, the quiet son on the sides of burgeoning branches,   
And inside, only my books.

Impressionist picture of a garden

Give me sunlight, cupped in a paint brush,
And smear the red of peonies
Over my garden.
Splash blue upon it,
The hard blue of Canterbury bells,
Paling through larkspur
Into heliotrope,
To wash away among forget-me-nots.

From 'Pictures of a Floating World'


You are like the stem
Of a young beech-tree,
Straight and swaying,
Breaking out in golden leaves.
Your walk is like the blowing of a beech-tree
On a hill.
Your voice is like leaves
Softly struck upon by a South wind.
Your shadow is no shadow, but a scattered sunshine;
And at night you pull the sky down to you
And hood yourself in stars.

But I am like a great oak under a cloudy sky,
Watching a stripling beech grow up at my feet.

1919 - From 'Pictures of a Floating World'

Amy Lowell

* Amy Lowell’s ‘Lacquer Prints’ began appearing in journals
as early as 1912, and appeared together, in increasingly
larger numbers, in the March 1917 'Poetry', 'Some Imagist
Poets', and 'Pictures of the Floating World'.


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