Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925)
American poetess

Sword Blades & Poppy Seeds

SWORD BLADES

The Captured Goddess


Over the housetops,
Above the rotating chimney-pots,
I have seen a shiver of amethyst,
And blue and cinnamon have flickered
A moment,
At the far end of a dusty street. 

Through sheeted rain
Has come a lustre of crimson,
And I have watched moonbeams
Hushed by a film of palest green. 

It was her wings,
Goddess!
Who stepped over the clouds,
And laid her rainbow feathers
Aslant on the currents of the air. 

I followed her for long,
With gazing eyes and stumbling feet.
I cared not where she led me,
My eyes were full of colours:
Saffrons, rubies, the yellows of beryls,
And the indigo-blue of quartz;
Flights of rose, layers of chrysoprase,
Points of orange, spirals of vermilion,
The spotted gold of tiger-lily petals,
The loud pink of bursting hydrangeas.
I followed,
And watched for the flashing of her wings. 

In the city I found her,
The narrow-streeted city.
In the market-place I came upon her,
Bound and trembling.
Her fluted wings were fastened to her sides with cords,
She was naked and cold,
For that day the wind blew
Without sunshine. 

Men chaffered for her,
They bargained in silver and gold,
In copper, in wheat,
And called their bids across the market-place. 

The Goddess wept. 

Hiding my face I fled,
And the grey wind hissed behind me,
Along the narrow streets.


The Precinct Rochester

The tall yellow hollyhocks stand,
Still and straight,
With their round blossoms spread open,
In the quiet sunshine.
And still is the old Roman wall,
Rough with jagged bits of flint,
And jutting stones,
Old and cragged,
Quite still in its antiquity.
The pear-trees press their branches against it,
And feeling it warm and kindly,
The little pears ripen to yellow and red.
They hang heavy, bursting with juice,
Against the wall.
So old, so still! 

The sky is still.
The clouds make no sound
As they slide away
Beyond the Cathedral Tower,
To the river,
And the sea.
It is very quiet,
Very sunny.
The myrtle flowers stretch themselves in the sunshine,
But make no sound.
The roses push their little tendrils up,
And climb higher and higher.
In spots they have climbed over the wall.
But they are very still,
They do not seem to move.
And the old wall carries them
Without effort, and quietly
Ripens and shields the vines and blossoms. 

A bird in a plane-tree
Sings a few notes,
Cadenced and perfect
They weave into the silence.
The Cathedral bell knocks,
One, two, three, and again,
And then again.
It is a quiet sound,
Calling to prayer,
Hardly scattering the stillness,
Only making it close in more densely.
The gardener picks ripe gooseberries
For the Dean's supper to-night.
It is very quiet,
Very regulated and mellow.
But the wall is old,
It has known many days.
It is a Roman wall,
Left-over and forgotten. 

Beyond the Cathedral Close
Yelp and mutter the discontents of people not mellow,
Not well-regulated.
People who care more for bread than for beauty,
Who would break the tombs of saints,
And give the painted windows of churches
To their children for toys.
People who say:
"They are dead, we live!
The world is for the living." 

Fools!  It is always the dead who breed.
Crush the ripe fruit, and cast it aside,
Yet its seeds shall fructify,
And trees rise where your huts were standing.
But the little people are ignorant,
They chaffer, and swarm.
They gnaw like rats,
And the foundations of the Cathedral are honeycombed. 

The Dean is in the Chapter House;
He is reading the architect's bill
For the completed restoration of the Cathedral.
He will have ripe gooseberries for supper,
And then he will walk up and down the path
By the wall,
And admire the snapdragons and dahlias,
Thinking how quiet and peaceful
The garden is.
The old wall will watch him,
Very quietly and patiently it will watch.
For the wall is old,
It is a Roman wall. 


The Cyclists

Spread on the roadway,
With open-blown jackets,
Like black, soaring pinions,
They swoop down the hillside,
      The Cyclists. 

Seeming dark-plumaged
Birds, after carrion,
Careening and circling,
Over the dying
      Of England. 

She lies with her bosom
Beneath them, no longer
The Dominant Mother,
The Virile -- but rotting
      Before time. 

The smell of her, tainted,
Has bitten their nostrils.
Exultant they hover,
And shadow the sun with
      Foreboding. 


Sunshine through a Cobwebbed Window

What charm is yours, you faded old-world tapestries,
Of outworn, childish mysteries,
 Vague pageants woven on a web of dream!
 And we, pushing and fighting in the turbid stream
Of modern life, find solace in your tarnished broideries. 

Old lichened halls, sun-shaded by huge cedar-trees,
The layered branches horizontal stretched, like Japanese
 Dark-banded prints.  Carven cathedrals, on a sky
 Of faintest colour, where the gothic spires fly
And sway like masts, against a shifting breeze. 

Worm-eaten pages, clasped in old brown vellum, shrunk
From over-handling, by some anxious monk.
 Or Virgin's Hours, bright with gold and graven
 With flowers, and rare birds, and all the Saints of Heaven,
And Noah's ark stuck on Ararat, when all the world had sunk. 

They soothe us like a song, heard in a garden, sung
By youthful minstrels, on the moonlight flung
 In cadences and falls, to ease a queen,
 Widowed and childless, cowering in a screen
Of myrtles, whose life hangs with all its threads unstrung. 


A London Thoroughfare
2 A.M.

They have watered the street,
It shines in the glare of lamps,
Cold, white lamps,
And lies
Like a slow-moving river,
Barred with silver and black.
Cabs go down it,
One,
And then another.
Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
The city is squalid and sinister,
With the silver-barred street in the midst,
Slow-moving,
A river leading nowhere. 

Opposite my window,
The moon cuts,
Clear and round,
Through the plum-coloured night.
She cannot light the city;
It is too bright.
It has white lamps,
And glitters coldly. 

I stand in the window and watch the moon.
She is thin and lustreless,
But I love her.
I know the moon,
And this is an alien city. 


Astigmatism


      To Ezra Pound:
      With much friendship and admiration
      and some differences of opinion
The Poet took his walking-stick Of fine and polished ebony. Set in the close-grained wood Were quaint devices; Patterns in ambers, And in the clouded green of jades. The top was of smooth, yellow ivory, And a tassel of tarnished gold Hung by a faded cord from a hole Pierced in the hard wood, Circled with silver. For years the Poet had wrought upon this cane. His wealth had gone to enrich it, His experiences to pattern it, His labour to fashion and burnish it. To him it was perfect, A work of art and a weapon, A delight and a defence. The Poet took his walking-stick And walked abroad.
Peace be with you, Brother.
The Poet came to a meadow. Sifted through the grass were daisies, Open-mouthed, wondering, they gazed at the sun. The Poet struck them with his cane. The little heads flew off, and they lay Dying, open-mouthed and wondering, On the hard ground. "They are useless. They are not roses," said the Poet. Peace be with you, Brother. Go your ways.
The Poet came to a stream. Purple and blue flags waded in the water; In among them hopped the speckled frogs; The wind slid through them, rustling. The Poet lifted his cane, And the iris heads fell into the water. They floated away, torn and drowning. "Wretched flowers," said the Poet, "They are not roses." Peace be with you, Brother. It is your affair.
The Poet came to a garden. Dahlias ripened against a wall, Gillyflowers stood up bravely for all their short stature, And a trumpet-vine covered an arbour With the red and gold of its blossoms. Red and gold like the brass notes of trumpets. The Poet knocked off the stiff heads of the dahlias, And his cane lopped the gillyflowers at the ground. Then he severed the trumpet-blossoms from their stems. Red and gold they lay scattered, Red and gold, as on a battle field; Red and gold, prone and dying. "They were not roses," said the Poet. Peace be with you, Brother. But behind you is destruction, and waste places.
The Poet came home at evening, And in the candle-light He wiped and polished his cane. The orange candle flame leaped in the yellow ambers, And made the jades undulate like green pools. It played along the bright ebony, And glowed in the top of cream-coloured ivory. But these things were dead, Only the candle-light made them seem to move. "It is a pity there were no roses," said the Poet. Peace be with you, Brother. You have chosen your part.


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The Coal Picker


He perches in the slime, inert,
Bedaubed with iridescent dirt.
The oil upon the puddles dries
To colours like a peacock's eyes,
And half-submerged tomato-cans
Shine scaly, as leviathans
Oozily crawling through the mud.
The ground is here and there bestud
With lumps of only part-burned coal.
His duty is to glean the whole,
To pick them from the filth, each one,
To hoard them for the hidden sun
Which glows within each fiery core
And waits to be made free once more.
Their sharp and glistening edges cut
His stiffened fingers.  Through the smut
Gleam red the wounds which will not shut.
Wet through and shivering he kneels
And digs the slippery coals; like eels
They slide about.  His force all spent,
He counts his small accomplishment.
A half-a-dozen clinker-coals
Which still have fire in their souls.
Fire!  And in his thought there burns
The topaz fire of votive urns.
He sees it fling from hill to hill,
And still consumed, is burning still.
Higher and higher leaps the flame,
The smoke an ever-shifting frame.
He sees a Spanish Castle old,
With silver steps and paths of gold.
From myrtle bowers comes the plash
Of fountains, and the emerald flash
Of parrots in the orange trees,
Whose blossoms pasture humming bees.
He knows he feeds the urns whose smoke
Bears visions, that his master-stroke
Is out of dirt and misery
To light the fire of poesy.
He sees the glory, yet he knows
That others cannot see his shows.
To them his smoke is sightless, black,
His votive vessels but a pack
Of old discarded shards, his fire
A peddler's; still to him the pyre
Is incensed, an enduring goal!
He sighs and grubs another coal. 


Storm-Racked

How should I sing when buffeting salt waves
 And stung with bitter surges, in whose might
 I toss, a cockleshell?  The dreadful night
Marshals its undefeated dark and raves
In brutal madness, reeling over graves
 Of vanquished men, long-sunken out of sight,
 Sent wailing down to glut the ghoulish sprite
Who haunts foul seaweed forests and their caves.
 No parting cloud reveals a watery star,
My cries are washed away upon the wind,
 My cramped and blistering hands can find no spar,
My eyes with hope o'erstrained, are growing blind.
 But painted on the sky great visions burn,
 My voice, oblation from a shattered urn! 


Convalescence

From out the dragging vastness of the sea,
 Wave-fettered, bound in sinuous, seaweed strands,
 He toils toward the rounding beach, and stands
One moment, white and dripping, silently,
Cut like a cameo in lazuli,
 Then falls, betrayed by shifting shells, and lands
 Prone in the jeering water, and his hands
Clutch for support where no support can be.
 So up, and down, and forward, inch by inch,
He gains upon the shore, where poppies glow
And sandflies dance their little lives away.
 The sucking waves retard, and tighter clinch
The weeds about him, but the land-winds blow,
And in the sky there blooms the sun of May. 


Patience

Be patient with you?
 When the stooping sky
Leans down upon the hills
And tenderly, as one who soothing stills
 An anguish, gathers earth to lie
Embraced and girdled.  Do the sun-filled men
 Feel patience then? 

Be patient with you?
 When the snow-girt earth
Cracks to let through a spurt
Of sudden green, and from the muddy dirt
 A snowdrop leaps, how mark its worth
To eyes frost-hardened, and do weary men
 Feel patience then? 

Be patient with you?
 When pain's iron bars
Their rivets tighten, stern
To bend and break their victims; as they turn,
 Hopeless, there stand the purple jars
Of night to spill oblivion.  Do these men
 Feel patience then? 

Be patient with you?
 You!  My sun and moon!
My basketful of flowers!
My money-bag of shining dreams!  My hours,
 Windless and still, of afternoon!
You are my world and I your citizen.
 What meaning can have patience then? 


Apology

Be not angry with me that I bear
 Your colours everywhere,
 All through each crowded street,
  And meet
 The wonder-light in every eye,
  As I go by. 

Each plodding wayfarer looks up to gaze,
 Blinded by rainbow haze,
 The stuff of happiness,
  No less,
 Which wraps me in its glad-hued folds
  Of peacock golds. 

Before my feet the dusty, rough-paved way
 Flushes beneath its gray.
 My steps fall ringed with light,
  So bright,
 It seems a myriad suns are strown
  About the town. 

Around me is the sound of steepled bells,
 And rich perfumed smells
 Hang like a wind-forgotten cloud,
  And shroud
 Me from close contact with the world.
  I dwell impearled. 

You blazon me with jewelled insignia.
 A flaming nebula
 Rims in my life.  And yet
  You set
 The word upon me, unconfessed
  To go unguessed. 


A Petition

I pray to be the tool which to your hand
 Long use has shaped and moulded till it be
 Apt for your need, and, unconsideringly,
You take it for its service.  I demand
To be forgotten in the woven strand
 Which grows the multi-coloured tapestry
 Of your bright life, and through its tissues lie
A hidden, strong, sustaining, grey-toned band.
 I wish to dwell around your daylight dreams,
The railing to the stairway of the clouds,
 To guard your steps securely up, where streams
A faery moonshine washing pale the crowds
 Of pointed stars.  Remember not whereby
 You mount, protected, to the far-flung sky.


A Blockhead

Before me lies a mass of shapeless days,
 Unseparated atoms, and I must
 Sort them apart and live them.  Sifted dust
Covers the formless heap.  Reprieves, delays,
There are none, ever.  As a monk who prays
 The sliding beads asunder, so I thrust
 Each tasteless particle aside, and just
Begin again the task which never stays.
 And I have known a glory of great suns,
When days flashed by, pulsing with joy and fire!
Drunk bubbled wine in goblets of desire,
 And felt the whipped blood laughing as it runs!
Spilt is that liquor, my too hasty hand
Threw down the cup, and did not understand. 


Stupidity

Dearest, forgive that with my clumsy touch
 I broke and bruised your rose.
 I hardly could suppose
It were a thing so fragile that my clutch
    Could kill it, thus. 

It stood so proudly up upon its stem,
 I knew no thought of fear,
 And coming very near
Fell, overbalanced, to your garment's hem,
    Tearing it down. 

Now, stooping, I upgather, one by one,
 The crimson petals, all
 Outspread about my fall.
They hold their fragrance still, a blood-red cone
    Of memory. 

And with my words I carve a little jar
 To keep their scented dust,
 Which, opening, you must
Breathe to your soul, and, breathing, know me far
    More grieved than you.


Irony

An arid daylight shines along the beach
 Dried to a grey monotony of tone,
 And stranded jelly-fish melt soft upon
The sun-baked pebbles, far beyond their reach
Sparkles a wet, reviving sea.  Here bleach
 The skeletons of fishes, every bone
 Polished and stark, like traceries of stone,
The joints and knuckles hardened each to each.
 And they are dead while waiting for the sea,
 The moon-pursuing sea, to come again.
Their hearts are blown away on the hot breeze.
 Only the shells and stones can wait to be
 Washed bright.  For living things, who suffer pain,
May not endure till time can bring them ease. 


Happiness

Happiness, to some, elation;
Is, to others, mere stagnation.
Days of passive somnolence,
At its wildest, indolence.
Hours of empty quietness,
No delight, and no distress. 

Happiness to me is wine,
Effervescent, superfine.
Full of tang and fiery pleasure,
Far too hot to leave me leisure
For a single thought beyond it.
Drunk!  Forgetful!  This the bond:  it
Means to give one's soul to gain
Life's quintessence.  Even pain
Pricks to livelier living, then
Wakes the nerves to laugh again,
Rapture's self is three parts sorrow.
Although we must die to-morrow,
Losing every thought but this;
Torn, triumphant, drowned in bliss. 

Happiness:  We rarely feel it.
I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
Pay in coins of dripping blood
For this one transcendent good. 


The Last Quarter of the Moon

How long shall I tarnish the mirror of life,
A spatter of rust on its polished steel!
 The seasons reel
 Like a goaded wheel.
Half-numb, half-maddened, my days are strife. 

The night is sliding towards the dawn,
And upturned hills crouch at autumn's knees.
 A torn moon flees
 Through the hemlock trees,
The hours have gnawed it to feed their spawn. 

Pursuing and jeering the misshapen thing
A rabble of clouds flares out of the east.
 Like dogs unleashed
 After a beast,
They stream on the sky, an outflung string. 

A desolate wind, through the unpeopled dark,
Shakes the bushes and whistles through empty nests,
 And the fierce unrests
 I keep as guests
Crowd my brain with corpses, pallid and stark. 

Leave me in peace, O Spectres, who haunt
My labouring mind, I have fought and failed.
 I have not quailed,
 I was all unmailed
And naked I strove, 'tis my only vaunt. 

The moon drops into the silver day
As waking out of her swoon she comes.
 I hear the drums
 Of millenniums
Beating the mornings I still must stay. 

The years I must watch go in and out,
While I build with water, and dig in air,
 And the trumpets blare
 Hollow despair,
The shuddering trumpets of utter rout. 

An atom tossed in a chaos made
Of yeasting worlds, which bubble and foam.
 Whence have I come?
 What would be home?
I hear no answer.  I am afraid! 

I crave to be lost like a wind-blown flame.
Pushed into nothingness by a breath,
 And quench in a wreath
 Of engulfing death
This fight for a God, or this devil's game. 


A Tale of Starvation

There once was a man whom the gods didn't love,
 And a disagreeable man was he.
He loathed his neighbours, and his neighbours hated him,
 And he cursed eternally. 

He damned the sun, and he damned the stars,
 And he blasted the winds in the sky.
He sent to Hell every green, growing thing,
 And he raved at the birds as they fly. 

His oaths were many, and his range was wide,
 He swore in fancy ways;
But his meaning was plain:  that no created thing
 Was other than a hurt to his gaze. 

He dwelt all alone, underneath a leaning hill,
 And windows toward the hill there were none,
And on the other side they were white-washed thick,
 To keep out every spark of the sun. 

When he went to market he walked all the way
 Blaspheming at the path he trod.
He cursed at those he bought of, 
    and swore at those he sold to,
 By all the names he knew of God. 

For his heart was soured in his weary old hide,
 And his hopes had curdled in his breast.
His friend had been untrue, 
    and his love had thrown him over
 For the chinking money-bags she liked best. 

The rats had devoured the contents of his grain-bin,
 The deer had trampled on his corn,
His brook had shrivelled in a summer drought,
 And his sheep had died unshorn. 

His hens wouldn't lay, and his cow broke loose,
 And his old horse perished of a colic.
In the loft his wheat-bags were nibbled into holes
 By little, glutton mice on a frolic. 

So he slowly lost all he ever had,
 And the blood in his body dried.
Shrunken and mean he still lived on,
 And cursed that future which had lied. 

One day he was digging, a spade or two,
 As his aching back could lift,
When he saw something glisten at the bottom 
    of the trench,
 And to get it out he made great shift. 

So he dug, and he delved, with care and pain,
 And the veins in his forehead stood taut.
At the end of an hour, when every bone cracked,
 He gathered up what he had sought. 

A dim old vase of crusted glass,
 Prismed while it lay buried deep.
Shifting reds and greens, like a pigeon's neck,
 At the touch of the sun began to leap. 

It was dull in the tree-shade, but glowing in the light;
 Flashing like an opal-stone,
Carved into a flagon; and the colours glanced and ran,
 Where at first there had seemed to be none. 

It had handles on each side to bear it up,
 And a belly for the gurgling wine.
Its neck was slender, and its mouth was wide,
 And its lip was curled and fine. 

The old man saw it in the sun's bright stare
 And the colours started up through the crust,
And he who had cursed at the yellow sun
 Held the flask to it and wiped away the dust. 

And he bore the flask to the brightest spot,
 Where the shadow of the hill fell clear;
And he turned the flask, and he looked at the flask,
 And the sun shone without his sneer. 

Then he carried it home, and put it on a shelf,
 But it was only grey in the gloom.
So he fetched a pail, and a bit of cloth,
 And he went outside with a broom. 

And he washed his windows just to let the sun
 Lie upon his new-found vase;
And when evening came, he moved it down
 And put it on a table near the place 

Where a candle fluttered in a draught from the door.
 The old man forgot to swear,
Watching its shadow grown a mammoth size,
 Dancing in the kitchen there. 

He forgot to revile the sun next morning
 When he found his vase afire in its light.
And he carried it out of the house that day,
 And kept it close beside him until night. 

And so it happened from day to day.
 The old man fed his life
On the beauty of his vase, on its perfect shape.
 And his soul forgot its former strife. 

And the village-folk came and begged to see
 The flagon which was dug from the ground.
And the old man never thought of an oath, in his joy
 At showing what he had found. 

One day the master of the village school
 Passed him as he stooped at toil,
Hoeing for a bean-row, and at his side
 Was the vase, on the turned-up soil. 

"My friend," said the schoolmaster, pompous and kind,
 "That's a valuable thing you have there,
But it might get broken out of doors,
 It should meet with the utmost care. 

What are you doing with it out here?"
 "Why, Sir," said the poor old man,
"I like to have it about, do you see?
 To be with it all I can." 

"You will smash it," said the schoolmaster, sternly right,
 "Mark my words and see!"
And he walked away, while the old man looked
 At his treasure despondingly. 

Then he smiled to himself, for it was his!
 He had toiled for it, and now he cared.
Yes! loved its shape, and its subtle, swift hues,
 Which his own hard work had bared. 

He would carry it round with him everywhere,
 As it gave him joy to do.
A fragile vase should not stand in a bean-row!
 Who would dare to say so?  Who? 

Then his heart was rested, and his fears gave way,
 And he bent to his hoe again. . . .
A clod rolled down, and his foot slipped back,
 And he lurched with a cry of pain. 

For the blade of the hoe crashed into glass,
 And the vase fell to iridescent sherds.
The old man's body heaved with slow, dry sobs.
 He did not curse, he had no words. 

He gathered the fragments, one by one,
 And his fingers were cut and torn.
Then he made a hole in the very place
 Whence the beautiful vase had been borne. 

He covered the hole, and he patted it down,
 Then he hobbled to his house and shut the door.
He tore up his coat and nailed it at the windows
 That no beam of light should cross the floor. 

He sat down in front of the empty hearth,
 And he neither ate nor drank.
In three days they found him, dead and cold,
 And they said:  "What a queer old crank!"


The Foreigner

Have at you, you Devils!
 My back's to this tree,
For you're nothing so nice
 That the hind-side of me
Would escape your assault.
 Come on now, all three! 

Here's a dandified gentleman,
 Rapier at point,
And a wrist which whirls round
 Like a circular joint.
A spatter of blood, man!
 That's just to anoint 

And make supple your limbs.
 'Tis a pity the silk
Of your waistcoat is stained.
 Why!  Your heart's full of milk,
And so full, it spills over!
 I'm not of your ilk. 

You said so, and laughed
 At my old-fashioned hose,
At the cut of my hair,
 At the length of my nose.
To carve it to pattern
 I think you propose. 

Your pardon, young Sir,
 But my nose and my sword
Are proving themselves
 In quite perfect accord.
I grieve to have spotted
 Your shirt.  On my word! 

And hullo!  You Bully!
 That blade's not a stick
To slash right and left,
 And my skull is too thick
To be cleft with such cuffs
 Of a sword.  Now a lick 

Down the side of your face.
 What a pretty, red line!
Tell the taverns that scar
 Was an honour.  Don't whine
That a stranger has marked you.
     
    The tree's there, You Swine! 

Did you think to get in
 At the back, while your friends
Made a little diversion
 In front?  So it ends,
With your sword clattering down
 On the ground.  'Tis amends 

I make for your courteous
 Reception of me,
A foreigner, landed
 From over the sea.
Your welcome was fervent
 I think you'll agree. 

My shoes are not buckled
 With gold, nor my hair
Oiled and scented, my jacket's
 Not satin, I wear
Corded breeches, wide hats,
 And I make people stare! 

So I do, but my heart
 Is the heart of a man,
And my thoughts cannot twirl
 In the limited span
'Twixt my head and my heels,
 As some other men's can. 

I have business more strange
 Than the shape of my boots,
And my interests range
 From the sky, to the roots
Of this dung-hill you live in,
 You half-rotted shoots 

Of a mouldering tree!
 Here's at you, once more.
You Apes!  You Jack-fools!
 You can show me the door,
And jeer at my ways,
 But you're pinked to the core. 

And before I have done,
 I will prick my name in
With the front of my steel,
 And your lily-white skin
Shall be printed with me.
 For I've come here to win!


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Absence

My cup is empty to-night,
Cold and dry are its sides,
Chilled by the wind from the open window.
Empty and void, it sparkles white in the moonlight.
The room is filled with the strange scent
Of wistaria blossoms.
They sway in the moon's radiance
And tap against the wall.
But the cup of my heart is still,
And cold, and empty. 

When you come, it brims
Red and trembling with blood,
Heart's blood for your drinking;
To fill your mouth with love
And the bitter-sweet taste of a soul.


A Gift

See!  I give myself to you, Beloved!
My words are little jars
For you to take and put upon a shelf.
Their shapes are quaint and beautiful,
And they have many pleasant colours and lustres
To recommend them.
Also the scent from them fills the room
With sweetness of flowers and crushed grasses. 

When I shall have given you the last one,
You will have the whole of me,
But I shall be dead. 


The Bungler

You glow in my heart
Like the flames of uncounted candles.
But when I go to warm my hands,
My clumsiness overturns the light,
And then I stumble
Against the tables and chairs. 


Fool's Money Bags

Outside the long window,
With his head on the stone sill,
The dog is lying,
Gazing at his Beloved.
His eyes are wet and urgent,
And his body is taut and shaking.
It is cold on the terrace;
A pale wind licks along the stone slabs,
But the dog gazes through the glass
And is content. 

The Beloved is writing a letter.
Occasionally she speaks to the dog,
But she is thinking of her writing.
Does she, too, give her devotion to one
Not worthy? 


Miscast I

I have whetted my brain until it is like a Damascus blade,
So keen that it nicks off the floating fringes of passers-by,
So sharp that the air would turn its edge
Were it to be twisted in flight.
Licking passions have bitten their arabesques into it,
And the mark of them lies, in and out,
Worm-like,
With the beauty of corroded copper patterning white steel.
My brain is curved like a scimitar,
And sighs at its cutting
Like a sickle mowing grass. 

But of what use is all this to me!
I, who am set to crack stones
In a country lane! 


Miscast II

My heart is like a cleft pomegranate
Bleeding crimson seeds
And dripping them on the ground.
My heart gapes because it is ripe and over-full,
And its seeds are bursting from it. 

But how is this other than a torment to me!
I, who am shut up, with broken crockery,
In a dark closet!


Anticipation

I have been temperate always,
But I am like to be very drunk
With your coming.
There have been times
I feared to walk down the street
Lest I should reel with the wine of you,
And jerk against my neighbours
As they go by.
I am parched now, and my tongue is horrible in my mouth,
But my brain is noisy
With the clash and gurgle of filling wine-cups. 


Vintage

I will mix me a drink of stars, --
Large stars with polychrome needles,
Small stars jetting maroon and crimson,
Cool, quiet, green stars.
I will tear them out of the sky,
And squeeze them over an old silver cup,
And I will pour the cold scorn of my Beloved into it,
So that my drink shall be bubbled with ice. 

It will lap and scratch
As I swallow it down;
And I shall feel it as a serpent of fire,
Coiling and twisting in my belly.
His snortings will rise to my head,
And I shall be hot, and laugh,
Forgetting that I have ever known a woman. 


The Tree of Scarlet Berries

The rain gullies the garden paths
And tinkles on the broad sides of grass blades.
A tree, at the end of my arm, is hazy with mist.
Even so, I can see that it has red berries,
A scarlet fruit,
Filmed over with moisture.
It seems as though the rain,
Dripping from it,
Should be tinged with colour.
I desire the berries,
But, in the mist, I only scratch my hand on the thorns.
Probably, too, they are bitter. 


Obligation

Hold your apron wide
That I may pour my gifts into it,
So that scarcely shall your two arms hinder them
From falling to the ground. 

I would pour them upon you
And cover you,
For greatly do I feel this need
Of giving you something,
Even these poor things. 

Dearest of my Heart! 


The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

1914

The Giver of Stars

Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory. 

Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.


The Temple

Between us leapt a gold and scarlet flame.
 Into the hollow of the cupped, arched blue
 Of Heaven it rose.  Its flickering tongues up-drew
And vanished in the sunshine.  How it came
We guessed not, nor what thing could be its name.
 From each to each had sprung those sparks which flew
 Together into fire.  But we knew
The winds would slap and quench it in their game.
 And so we graved and fashioned marble blocks
To treasure it, and placed them round about.
With pillared porticos we wreathed the whole,
 And roofed it with bright bronze.  Behind carved locks
Flowered the tall and sheltered flame.  Without,
The baffled winds thrust at a column's bole. 


Epitaph of a Young Poet Who Died
Before Having Achieved Success

Beneath this sod lie the remains
Of one who died of growing pains. 


In Answer to a Request

You ask me for a sonnet.  Ah, my Dear,
   Can clocks tick back to yesterday at noon?
   Can cracked and fallen leaves recall last June
And leap up on the boughs, now stiff and sere?
For your sake, I would go and seek the year,
   Faded beyond the purple ranks of dune,
   Blown sands of drifted hours, which the moon
Streaks with a ghostly finger, and her sneer
   Pulls at my lengthening shadow.  Yes, 'tis that!
   My shadow stretches forward, and the ground
Is dark in front because the light's behind.
   It is grotesque, with such a funny hat,
   In watching it and walking I have found
More than enough to occupy my mind. 

I cannot turn, the light would make me blind. 




Amy Lowell (Homepage)


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