Amy Lowell |
I know a country laced with roads,
They join the hills and they span the brooks,
They weave like a shuttle between broad fields,
And slide discreetly through hidden nooks.
They are canopied like a Persian dome
And carpeted with orient dyes.
They are myriad-voiced, and musical,
And scented with happiest memories.
O Winding roads that I know so well,
Every twist and turn, every hollow and hill!
They are set in my heart to a pulsing tune
Gay as a honey-bee humming in June.
'T is the rhythmic beat of a horse's feet
And the pattering paws of a sheep-dog bitch;
'T is the creaking trees, and the singing breeze,
And the rustle of leaves in the road-side ditch.
A cow in a meadow shakes her bell
And the notes cut sharp through the autumn air,
Each chattering brook bears a fleet of leaves
Their cargo the rainbow, and just now where
The sun splashed bright on the road ahead
A startled rabbit quivered and fled.
O Uphill roads and roads that dip down!
You curl your sun-spattered length along,
And your march is beaten into a song
By the softly ringing hoofs of a horse
And the panting breath of the dogs I love.
The pageant of Autumn follows its course
And the blue sky of Autumn laughs above.
And the song and the country become as one,
I see it as music, I hear it as light;
Prismatic and shimmering, trembling to tone,
The land of desire, my soul's delight.
And always it beats in my listening ears
With the gentle thud of a horse's stride,
With the swift-falling steps of many dogs,
Following, following at my side.
O Roads that journey to fairyland!
Radiant highways whose vistas gleam,
Leading me on, under crimson leaves,
To the opaline gates of the Castles of Dream.
Amy Lowell |
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
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,
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,
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.
Amy Lowell |
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,
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
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.
Amy Lowell |
The lawyer, are you?
Well! I ain't got nothin' to say.
I told the perlice I hadn't nothin'.
They know'd real well 'twas me.
Ther warn't no supposin',
Ketchin' me in the woods as they did,
An' me in my house dress.
Folks don't walk miles an' miles
In the drifted snow,
With no hat nor wrap on 'em
Ef everythin's all right, I guess.
All right? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Nothin' warn't right with me.
Oh, Lord! Why did I do it?
Why ain't it yesterday, and Ed here agin?
Many's the time I've set up with him nights
When he had cramps, or rheumatizm, or somethin'.
I used ter nurse him same's ef he was a baby.
I wouldn't hurt him, I love him!
Don't you dare to say I killed him.
Somethin' got aholt o' me.
I couldn't help it.
Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!
I beg your pardon, I -- I --
Oh, I'm a wicked woman!
An' I'm desolate, desolate!
Why warn't I struck dead or paralyzed
Afore my hands done it.
Oh, my God, what shall I do!
No, Sir, ther ain't no extenuatin' circumstances,
An' I don't want none.
I want a bolt o' lightnin'
To strike me dead right now!
Oh, I'll tell yer.
But it won't make no diff'rence.
Yes, I killed him.
Why do yer make me say it?
It's cruel! Cruel!
I killed him because o' th' silence.
The long, long silence,
That watched all around me,
And he wouldn't break it.
I tried to make him,
Time an' agin,
But he was terrible taciturn, Ed was.
He never spoke 'cept when he had to,
An' then he'd only say "yes" and "no".
You can't even guess what that silence was.
I'd hear it whisperin' in my ears,
An' I got frightened, 'twas so thick,
An' al'ays comin' back.
Ef Ed would ha' talked sometimes
It would ha' driven it away;
But he never would.
He didn't hear it same as I did.
You see, Sir,
Our farm was off'n the main road,
And set away back under the mountain;
And the village was seven mile off,
Measurin' after you'd got out o' our lane.
We didn't have no hired man,
'Cept in hayin' time;
An' Dane's place,
That was the nearest,
Was clear way 'tother side the mountain.
They used Marley post-office
An' ours was Benton.
Ther was a cart-track took yer to Dane's in Summer,
An' it warn't above two mile that way,
But it warn't never broke out Winters.
I used to dread the Winters.
Seem's ef I couldn't abear to see the golden-rod bloomin';
Winter'd come so quick after that.
You don't know what snow's like when yer with it
Day in an' day out.
Ed would be out all day loggin',
An' I set at home and look at the snow
Layin' over everythin';
It 'ud dazzle me blind,
Till it warn't white any more, but black as ink.
Then the quiet 'ud commence rushin' past my ears
Till I most went mad listenin' to it.
Many's the time I've dropped a pan on the floor
Jest to hear it clatter.
I was most frantic when dinner-time come
An' Ed was back from the woods.
I'd ha' give my soul to hear him speak.
But he'd never say a word till I asked him
Did he like the raised biscuits or whatever,
An' then sometimes he'd jest nod his answer.
Then he'd go out agin,
An' I'd watch him from the kitchin winder.
It seemed the woods come marchin' out to meet him
An' the trees 'ud press round him an' hustle him.
I got so I was scared o' th' trees.
I thought they come nearer,
Every day a little nearer,
Closin' up round the house.
I never went in t' th' woods Winters,
Though in Summer I liked 'em well enough.
It warn't so bad when my little boy was with us.
He used to go sleddin' and skatin',
An' every day his father fetched him to school in the pung
An' brought him back agin.
We scraped an' scraped fer Neddy,
We wanted him to have a education.
We sent him to High School,
An' then he went up to Boston to Technology.
He was a minin' engineer,
An' doin' real well,
A credit to his bringin' up.
But his very first position ther was an explosion in the mine.
And I'm glad! I'm glad!
He ain't here to see me now.
I'm your mother still, Neddy.
Don't turn from me like that.
I can't abear it.
I can't! I can't!
What did you say?
Oh, yes, Sir.
I'm very sorry,
I don't know what I'm sayin'.
Not till after Neddy died.
'Twas the next Winter the silence come,
I don't remember noticin' it afore.
That was five year ago,
An' it's been gittin' worse an' worse.
I asked Ed to put in a telephone.
I thought ef I felt the whisperin' comin' on
I could ring up some o' th' folks.
But Ed wouldn't hear of it.
He said we'd paid so much for Neddy
We couldn't hardly git along as 'twas.
An' he never understood me wantin' to talk.
Well, this year was worse'n all the others;
We had a terrible spell o' stormy weather,
An' the snow lay so thick
You couldn't see the fences even.
Out o' doors was as flat as the palm o' my hand,
Ther warn't a hump or a holler
Fer as you could see.
It was so quiet
The snappin' o' the branches back in the wood-lot
Sounded like pistol shots.
Ed was out all day
Same as usual.
An' it seemed he talked less'n ever.
He didn't even say `Good-mornin'', once or twice,
An' jest nodded or shook his head when I asked him things.
On Monday he said he'd got to go over to Benton
Fer some oats.
I'd oughter ha' gone with him,
But 'twas washin' day
An' I was afeared the fine weather'd break,
An' I couldn't do my dryin'.
All my life I'd done my work punctual,
An' I couldn't fix my conscience
To go junketin' on a washin'-day.
I can't tell you what that day was to me.
It dragged an' dragged,
Fer ther warn't no Ed ter break it in the middle
Every time I stopped stirrin' the water
I heerd the whisperin' all about me.
I stopped oftener'n I should
To see ef 'twas still ther,
An' it al'ays was.
An' gittin' louder
It seemed ter me.
Once I threw up the winder to feel the wind.
That seemed most alive somehow.
But the woods looked so kind of menacin'
I closed it quick
An' started to mangle's hard's I could,
The squeakin' was comfortin'.
Well, Ed come home 'bout four.
I seen him down the road,
An' I run out through the shed inter th' barn
To meet him quicker.
I hollered out, `Hullo!'
But he didn't say nothin',
He jest drove right in
An' climbed out o' th' sleigh
An' commenced unharnessin'.
I asked him a heap o' questions;
Who he'd seed
An' what he'd done.
Once in a while he'd nod or shake,
But most o' th' time he didn't do nothin'.
'Twas gittin' dark then,
An' I was in a state,
With the loneliness
An' Ed payin' no attention
Like somethin' warn't livin'.
All of a sudden it come,
I don't know what,
But I jest couldn't stand no more.
It didn't seem 's though that was Ed,
An' it didn't seem as though I was me.
I had to break a way out somehow,
Somethin' was closin' in
An' I was stiflin'.
Ed's loggin' axe was ther,
An' I took it.
Oh, my God!
I can't see nothin' else afore me all the time.
I run out inter th' woods,
Seemed as ef they was pullin' me;
An' all the time I was wadin' through the snow
I seed Ed in front of me
Where I'd laid him.
An' I see him now.
What you holdin' me fer?
I want ter go to Ed,
Stop holdin' me.
I got to go.
I'm comin', Ed.
I'll be ther in a minit.
Oh, I'm so tired!
Amy Lowell |
Must all of worth be travailled for, and those
Life's brightest stars rise from a troubled sea?
Must years go by in sad uncertainty
Leaving us doubting whose the conquering blows,
Are we or Fate the victors? Time which shows
All inner meanings will reveal, but we
Shall never know the upshot.
Ours to be
Wasted with longing, shattered in the throes,
The agonies of splendid dreams, which day
Dims from our vision, but each night brings back;
We strive to hold their grandeur, and essay
To be the thing we dream.
Sudden we lack
The flash of insight, life grows drear and gray,
And hour follows hour, nerveless, slack.
Amy Lowell |
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.
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
For living things, who suffer pain,
May not endure till time can bring them ease.
Amy Lowell |
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 |
Now what in the name of the sun and the stars
Is the meaning of this most unholy of wars?
Do men find life so full of humour and joy
That for want of excitement they smash up the toy?
Fifteen millions of soldiers with popguns and horses
All bent upon killing, because their "of courses"
Are not quite the same.
All these men by the ears,
And nine nations of women choking with tears.
It is folly to think that the will of a king
Can force men to make ducks and drakes of a thing
They value, and life is, at least one supposes,
Of some little interest, even if roses
Have not grown up between one foot and the other.
What a marvel bureaucracy is, which can smother
Such quite elementary feelings, and tag
A man with a number, and set him to wag
His legs and his arms at the word of command
Or the blow of a whistle! He's certainly damned,
Fit only for mince-meat, if a little gold lace
And an upturned moustache can set him to face
Bullets, and bayonets, and death, and diseases,
Because some one he calls his Emperor, pleases.
If each man were to lay down his weapon, and say,
With a click of his heels, "I wish you Good-day,"
Now what, may I ask, could the Emperor do?
A king and his minions are really so few.
Angry? Oh, of course, a most furious Emperor!
But the men are so many they need not mind his temper, or
The dire results which could not be inflicted.
With no one to execute sentence, convicted
Is just the weak wind from an old, broken bellows.
What lackeys men are, who might be such fine fellows!
To be killing each other, unmercifully,
At an order, as though one said, "Bring up the tea.
Or is it that tasting the blood on their jaws
They lap at it, drunk with its ferment, and laws
So patiently builded, are nothing to drinking
More blood, any blood.
They don't notice its stinking.
I don't suppose tigers do, fighting cocks, sparrows,
And, as to men -- what are men, when their marrows
Are running with blood they have gulped; it is plain
Such excellent sport does not recollect pain.
Toll the bells in the steeples left standing.
The flags which meant order, for order is past.
Take the dust of the streets and sprinkle your head,
The civilization we've worked for is dead.
Squeeze into this archway, the head of the line
Has just swung round the corner to `Die Wacht am Rhein'.
Amy Lowell |
A face seen passing in a crowded street,
A voice heard singing music, large and free;
And from that moment life is changed, and we
Become of more heroic temper, meet
To freely ask and give, a man complete
Radiant because of faith, we dare to be
What Nature meant us.
Which can conceive a hero! No deceit,
No knowledge taught by unrelenting years,
Can quench this fierce, untamable desire.
We know that what we long for once achieved
Will cease to satisfy.
Be still our fears;
If what we worship fail us, still the fire
Burns on, and it is much to have believed.
Amy Lowell |
Be not angry with me that I bear
Your colours everywhere,
All through each crowded street,
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,
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,
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,
Me from close contact with the world.
I dwell impearled.
You blazon me with jewelled insignia.
A flaming nebula
Rims in my life.
The word upon me, unconfessed
To go unguessed.