Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Amy Lowell In Pale Narcissus Mourns For Modern Poetry

["And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not."
-John 1:5, The New Testament]

on reading "The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell"

(and after reading some sad facts about her life)

you don't know how it feels to wear the sky-

the blue and the pearl shifting into moire,
roseate, taffeta; the very
life of roses in the arbor of her mind.

you don't understand this sheen of emerald

leaves and their transparency, the singing
through many waters as though
she were the wind.

or what, if a thing at all, it signifies.

though you may pretend you know,
that you can guess
the motive of an ivory shawl

the shell pink sash, the amethyst

brocade and the pall of the face
through all this wilderness
of second guessing cruelty

of strange asides

on a summer wardrobe
for a winter bride oh.
splendid Cinderella

of the sunburst heart

believing God in all His colours
could be magnified
in the finery of her rainbows,

opals scattered through the dark

of Poetry's wild surmise*
betrayed, belied by the cognescenti simplified-
in love with the bare trees, only


raking with their twigged words

the skies of stars
littered with too much silver for a pride
comprehending nothing

mary angela douglas 3 december 2013



Note on the poem:"wild surmise" of course is an allusion to the John Keat's poem "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer", i.e. the following passage:



"Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
  When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
  He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
  Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

-John Keats, from On Looking Into Chapman's Homer