Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925)
American poetess


1) The Little Garden

2) The Garden by Moonlight

3) To an Early Daffodil

4) The Fruit Garden Path

5) White and Green

6) In a Garden

7) A Tulip Garden

8) Behind a Wall

9) Bath

10) Night and Sleep

11) Lilacs

12) Patterns


The Little Garden
A little garden on a bleak hillside Where deep the heavy, dazzling mountain snow Lies far into the spring. The sun's pale glow Is scarcely able to melt patches wide About the single rose bush. All denied Of nature's tender ministries. But no, -- For wonder-working faith has made it blow With flowers many hued and starry-eyed. Here sleeps the sun long, idle summer hours; Here butterflies and bees fare far to rove Amid the crumpled leaves of poppy flowers; Here four o'clocks, to the passionate night above Fling whiffs of perfume, like pale incense showers. A little garden, loved with a great love!

The Garden by Moonlight
A black cat among roses, Phlox, lilac-misted under a first-quarter moon, The sweet smells of heliotrope and night-scented stock. The garden is very still, It is dazed with moonlight, Contented with perfume, Dreaming the opium dreams of its folded poppies. Firefly lights open and vanish High as the tip buds of the golden glow Low as the sweet alyssum flowers at my feet. Moon-shimmer on leaves and trellises, Moon-spikes shafting through the snowball bush. Only the little faces of the ladies' delight are alert and staring, Only the cat, padding between the roses, Shakes a branch and breaks the chequered pattern As water is broken by the falling of a leaf. Then you come, And you are quiet like the garden, And white like the alyssum flowers, And beautiful as the silent sparks of the fireflies. Ah, Beloved, do you see those orange lilies? They knew my mother, But who belonging to me will they know When I am gone.
To an Early Daffodil
Thou yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring! Thou herald of rich Summer's myriad flowers! The climbing sun with new recovered powers Does warm thee into being, through the ring Of rich, brown earth he woos thee, makes thee fling Thy green shoots up, inheriting the dowers Of bending sky and sudden, sweeping showers, Till ripe and blossoming thou art a thing To make all nature glad, thou art so gay; To fill the lonely with a joy untold; Nodding at every gust of wind to-day, To-morrow jewelled with raindrops. Always bold To stand erect, full in the dazzling play Of April's sun, for thou hast caught his gold.
The Fruit Garden Path
The path runs straight between the flowering rows, A moonlit path, hemmed in by beds of bloom, Where phlox and marigolds dispute for room With tall, red dahlias and the briar rose. 'T is reckless prodigality which throws Into the night these wafts of rich perfume Which sweep across the garden like a plume. Over the trees a single bright star glows. Dear garden of my childhood, here my years Have run away like little grains of sand; The moments of my life, its hopes and fears Have all found utterance here, where now I stand; My eyes ache with the weight of unshed tears, You are my home, do you not understand?
White and Green
Hey! My daffodil-crowned, Slim and without sandals! As the sudden spurt of flame upon darkness So my eyeballs are startled with you, Supple-limbed youth among the fruit-trees, Light runner through tasselled orchards. You are an almond flower unsheathed Leaping and flickering between the budded branches.
In a Garden
Gushing from the mouths of stone men To spread at ease under the sky In granite-lipped basins, Where iris dabble their feet And rustle to a passing wind, The water fills the garden with its rushing, In the midst of the quiet of close-clipped lawns. Damp smell the ferns in tunnels of stone, Where trickle and plash the fountains, Marble fountains, yellowed with much water. Splashing down moss-tarnished steps It falls, the water; And the air is throbbing with it. With its gurgling and running. With its leaping, and deep, cool murmur. And I wished for night and you. I wanted to see you in the swimming-pool, White and shining in the silver-flecked water. While the moon rode over the garden, High in the arch of night, And the scent of the lilacs was heavy with stillness. Night, and the water, and you in your whiteness, bathing!
A Tulip Garden
Guarded within the old red wall's embrace, Marshalled like soldiers in gay company, The tulips stand arrayed. Here infantry Wheels out into the sunlight. What bold grace Sets off their tunics, white with crimson lace! Here are platoons of gold-frocked cavalry, With scarlet sabres tossing in the eye Of purple batteries, every gun in place. Forward they come, with flaunting colours spread, With torches burning, stepping out in time To some quick, unheard march. Our ears are dead, We cannot catch the tune. In pantomime Parades that army. With our utmost powers We hear the wind stream through a bed of flowers.
Behind a Wall
I own a solace shut within my heart, A garden full of many a quaint delight And warm with drowsy, poppied sunshine; bright, Flaming with lilies out of whose cups dart Shining things With powdered wings. Here terrace sinks to terrace, arbors close The ends of dreaming paths; a wanton wind Jostles the half-ripe pears, and then, unkind, Tumbles a-slumber in a pillar rose, With content Grown indolent. By night my garden is o'erhung with gems Fixed in an onyx setting. Fireflies Flicker their lanterns in my dazzled eyes. In serried rows I guess the straight, stiff stems Of hollyhocks Against the rocks. So far and still it is that, listening, I hear the flowers talking in the dawn; And where a sunken basin cuts the lawn, Cinctured with iris, pale and glistening, The sudden swish Of a waking fish.

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air. The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light. Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot, and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

Night and Sleep
The day takes her ease in slippered yellow. Electric signs gleam out along the shop fronts, following each other. They grow, and grow, and blow into patterns of fire-flowers as the sky fades. Trades scream in spots of light at the unruffled night. Twinkle, jab, snap, that means a new play; and over the way: plop, drop, quiver, is the sidelong sliver of a watchmaker's sign with its length on another street. A gigantic mug of beer effervesces to the atmosphere over a tall building, but the sky is high and has her own stars, why should she heed ours? I leave the city with speed. Wheels whirl to take me back to my trees and my quietness. The breeze which blows with me is fresh-washed and clean, it has come but recently from the high sky. There are no flowers in bloom yet, but the earth of my garden smells of tulips and narcissus. My room is tranquil and friendly. Out of the window I can see the distant city, a band of twinkling gems, little flower-heads with no stems. I cannot see the beer-glass, nor the letters of the restaurants and shops I passed, now the signs blur and all together make the city, glowing on a night of fine weather, like a garden stirring and blowing for the Spring. The night is fresh-washed and fair and there is a whiff of flowers in the air. Wrap me close, sheets of lavender. Pour your blue and purple dreams into my ears. The breeze whispers at the shutters and mutters queer tales of old days, and cobbled streets, and youths leaping their horses down marble stairways. Pale blue lavender, you are the colour of the sky when it is fresh-washed and fair . . . I smell the stars . . . they are like tulips and narcissus . . . I smell them in the air.

Lilacs, False blue, White Purple, Colour of lilac, Your great puffs of flowers Are everywhere in this my New England. Among your heart-shaped leaves Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing Their little weak soft songs; In the crooks of your branches The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs Peer restlessly through the light and shadow Of all Springs. Lilacs in dooryards Holding quiet conversations with an early moon; Lilacs watching a deserted house Settling sideways into the grass of an old road; Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom Above a cellar dug into a hill. You are everywhere. You were everywhere. You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon, And ran along the road beside the boy going to school. You stood by pasture-bars to give the cows good milking, You persuaded the housewife that her dish pan was of silver. And her husband an image of pure gold. You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms Through the wide doors of Custom Houses-- You, and sandal-wood, and tea, Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks When a ship was in from China. You called to them: "Goose-quill men, goose-quill men, May is a month for flitting." Until they writhed on their high stools And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers. Paradoxical New England clerks, Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the "Song of Solomon" at night, So many verses before bed-time, Because it was the Bible. The dead fed you Amid the slant stones of graveyards. Pale ghosts who planted you Came in the night-time And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems. You are of the green sea, And of the stone hills which reach a long distance. You are of the elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles, You are of great parks where everyone walks and nobody is at home. You cover the blind sides of greenhouses And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass To your friends, the grapes, inside. Lilacs, False blue, White Purple, Colour of lilac, You have forgotten your Eastern origin, The veiled women with eyes like panthers, The swollen, aggressive turbans of jewelled Pashas. Now you are a very decent flower, A reticent flower, A curiously clear-cut, candid flower, Standing beside clean doorways, Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles, Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight And a hundred or two sharp blossoms. Maine knows you, Has for years and years; New Hampshire knows you, And Massachusetts And Vermont. Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island; Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea. You are brighter than apples, Sweeter than tulips, You are the great flood of our souls Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts, You are the smell of all Summers, The love of wives and children, The recollection of the gardens of little children, You are the State Houses and Charters And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows. May is lilac here in New England, May is a thrush singing "Sun up!" on a tip-top ash-tree, May is white clouds behind pine-trees Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky. May is a green as no other, May is much sun through small leaves, May is soft earth, And apple-blossoms, And windows open to a South wind. May is full light wind of lilac From Canada to Narragansett Bay. Lilacs, False blue, White Purple, Colour of lilac. Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England, Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England, Lilacs in me because I am New England, Because my roots are in it, Because my leaves are of it, Because my flowers are for it, Because it is my country And I speak to it of itself And sing of it with my own voice Since certainly it is mine.
I walk down the garden paths, And all the daffodils Are blowing, and the bright blue squills. I walk down the patterned garden-paths In my stiff, brocaded gown. With my powdered hair and jewelled fan, I too am a rare Pattern. As I wander down The garden paths. My dress is richly figured, And the train Makes a pink and silver stain On the gravel, and the thrift Of the borders. Just a plate of current fashion, Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes. Not a softness anywhere about me, Only whalebone and brocade. And I sink on a seat in the shade Of a lime tree. For my passion Wars against the stiff brocade. The daffodils and squills Flutter in the breeze As they please. And I weep; For the lime-tree is in blossom And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom. And the plashing of waterdrops In the marble fountain Comes down the garden-paths. The dripping never stops. Underneath my stiffened gown Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin, A basin in the midst of hedges grown So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding, But she guesses he is near, And the sliding of the water Seems the stroking of a dear Hand upon her. What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown! I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground. All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground. I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths, And he would stumble after, Bewildered by my laughter. I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes. I would choose To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths, A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover, Till he caught me in the shade, And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me, Aching, melting, unafraid. With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops, And the plopping of the waterdrops, All about us in the open afternoon -- I am very like to swoon With the weight of this brocade, For the sun sifts through the shade. Underneath the fallen blossom In my bosom, Is a letter I have hid. It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke. "Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell Died in action Thursday se'nnight." As I read it in the white, morning sunlight, The letters squirmed like snakes. "Any answer, Madam," said my footman. "No," I told him. "See that the messenger takes some refreshment. No, no answer." And I walked into the garden, Up and down the patterned paths, In my stiff, correct brocade. The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun, Each one. I stood upright too, Held rigid to the pattern By the stiffness of my gown. Up and down I walked, Up and down. In a month he would have been my husband. In a month, here, underneath this lime, We would have broke the pattern; He for me, and I for him, He as Colonel, I as Lady, On this shady seat. He had a whim That sunlight carried blessing. And I answered, "It shall be as you have said." Now he is dead. In Summer and in Winter I shall walk Up and down The patterned garden-paths In my stiff, brocaded gown. The squills and daffodils Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow. I shall go Up and down, In my gown. Gorgeously arrayed, Boned and stayed. And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace By each button, hook, and lace. For the man who should loose me is dead, Fighting with the Duke in Flanders, In a pattern called a war. Christ! What are patterns for?


Amy Lowell - Homepage

Amy Lowell - Lilacs

Amy Lowell in het Nederlands

Dead Poetesses Society


Pageviews since 21-03-2002: 

© Gaston D'Haese: 24-11-2006.
Update 22-03-2016.