Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925)
American poetess

A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass



The Boston Athenaeum


Thou dear and well-loved haunt of happy hours, 
How often in some distant gallery, 
Gained by a little painful spiral stair, 
Far from the halls and corridors where throng 
The crowd of casual readers, have I passed 
Long, peaceful hours seated on the floor 
Of some retired nook, all lined with books, 
Where reverie and quiet reign supreme! 
Above, below, on every side, high shelved 
From careless grasp of transient interest, 
Stand books we can but dimly see, their charm 
Much greater that their titles are unread; 
While on a level with the dusty floor 
Others are ranged in orderly confusion, 
And we must stoop in painful posture while 
We read their names and learn their histories. 
The little gallery winds round about 
The middle of a most secluded room, 
Midway between the ceiling and the floor. 
A type of those high thoughts, which while we read 
Hover between the earth and furthest heaven 
As fancy wills, leaving the printed page; 
For books but give the theme, our hearts the rest, 
Enriching simple words with unguessed harmony 
And overtones of thought we only know. 
And as we sit long hours quietly, 
Reading at times, and at times simply dreaming, 
The very room itself becomes a friend, 
The confidant of intimate hopes and fears; 
A place where are engendered pleasant thoughts, 
And possibilities before unguessed 
Come to fruition born of sympathy. 
And as in some gay garden stretched upon 
A genial southern slope, warmed by the sun, 
The flowers give their fragrance joyously 
To the caressing touch of the hot noon; 
So books give up the all of what they mean 
Only in a congenial atmosphere, 
Only when touched by reverent hands, and read 
By those who love and feel as well as think. 
For books are more than books, they are the life, 
The very heart and core of ages past, 
The reason why men lived, and worked, and died, 
The essence and quintessence of their lives. 
And we may know them better, and divine 
The inner motives whence their actions sprang, 
Far better than the men who only knew 
Their bodily presence, the soul forever hid 
From those with no ability to see. 
They wait here quietly for us to come 
And find them out, and know them for our friends; 
These men who toiled and wrote only for this, 
To leave behind such modicum of truth 
As each perceived and each alone could tell. 
Silently waiting that from time to time 
It may be given them to illuminate 
Dull daily facts with pristine radiance 
For some long-waited-for affinity 
Who lingers yet in the deep womb of time. 
The shifting sun pierces the young green leaves 
Of elm trees, newly coming into bud, 
And splashes on the floor and on the books 
Through old, high, rounded windows, dim with age. 
The noisy city-sounds of modern life 
Float softened to us across the old graveyard. 
The room is filled with a warm, mellow light, 
No garish colours jar on our content, 
The books upon the shelves are old and worn. 
'T was no belated effort nor attempt 
To keep abreast with old as well as new 
That placed them here, tricked in a modern guise, 
Easily got, and held in light esteem. 
Our fathers' fathers, slowly and carefully 
Gathered them, one by one, when they were new 
And a delighted world received their thoughts 
Hungrily; while we but love the more, 
Because they are so old and grown so dear! 
The backs of tarnished gold, the faded boards, 
The slightly yellowing page, the strange old type, 
All speak the fashion of another age; 
The thoughts peculiar to the man who wrote 
Arrayed in garb peculiar to the time; 
As though the idiom of a man were caught 
Imprisoned in the idiom of a race. 
A nothing truly, yet a link that binds 
All ages to their own inheritance, 
And stretching backward, dim and dimmer still, 
Is lost in a remote antiquity. 
Grapes do not come of thorns nor figs of thistles, 
And even a great poet's divinest thought 
Is coloured by the world he knows and sees. 
The little intimate things of every day, 
The trivial nothings that we think not of, 
These go to make a part of each man's life; 
As much a part as do the larger thoughts 
He takes account of. Nay, the little things 
Of daily life it is which mold, and shape, 
And make him apt for noble deeds and true. 
And as we read some much-loved masterpiece, 
Read it as long ago the author read, 
With eyes that brimmed with tears as he saw 
The message he believed in stamped in type 
Inviolable for the slow-coming years; 
We know a certain subtle sympathy, 
We seem to clasp his hand across the past, 
His words become related to the time, 
He is at one with his own glorious creed 
And all that in his world was dared and done. 
The long, still, fruitful hours slip away 
Shedding their influences as they pass; 
We know ourselves the richer to have sat 
Upon this dusty floor and dreamed our dreams. 
No other place to us were quite the same, 
No other dreams so potent in their charm, 
For this is ours! Every twist and turn 
Of every narrow stair is known and loved; 
Each nook and cranny is our very own; 
The dear, old, sleepy place is full of spells 
For us, by right of long inheritance. 
The building simply bodies forth a thought 
Peculiarly inherent to the race. 
And we, descendants of that elder time, 
Have learnt to love the very form in which 
The thought has been embodied to our years. 
And here we feel that we are not alone, 
We too are one with our own richest past; 
And here that veiled, but ever smouldering fire 
Of race, which rarely seen yet never dies, 
Springs up afresh and warms us with its heat. 
And must they take away this treasure house, 
To us so full of thoughts and memories; 
To all the world beside a dismal place 
Lacking in all this modern age requires 
To tempt along the unfamiliar paths 
And leafy lanes of old time literatures? 
It takes some time for moss and vines to grow 
And warmly cover gaunt and chill stone walls 
Of stately buildings from the cold North Wind. 
The lichen of affection takes as long, 
Or longer, ere it lovingly enfolds 
A place which since without it were bereft, 
All stript and bare, shorn of its chiefest grace. 
For what to us were halls and corridors 
However large and fitting, if we part 
With this which is our birthright; if we lose 
A sentiment profound, unsoundable, 
Which Time's slow ripening alone can make, 
And man's blind foolishness so quickly mar. 






Amy Lowell - Home


Amy Lowell (Lyrical Poems)


Amy Lowell (Sonnets)


Amy Lowell (Verses for children)


Amy Lowell (Figurines in old Saxe)


Amy Lowell (Bronze Tablets)


Amy Lowell (War Pictures)


Amy Lowell (The overgrown Pasture)


Amy Lowell (Clocks tick a Century)


Amy Lowell (Towns in Colour)


Amy Lowell (Patterns)


Amy Lowell (Lilacs)


Amy Lowell (Love-poems)


Amy Lowell (Liefdesgedichten)
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© Gaston D'Haese: 06-01-2004.
Update: 21-03-2016.