Amy Lowell

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    Biographical information

  1. A Fairy Tale
  2. A Little Song
  3. A Winter Ride
  4. Apples Of Hesperides
  5. At Night
  6. Azure And Gold
  7. Before The Altar
  8. Behind A Wall
  9. Fragment: What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
  10. From One Who Stays
  11. In Darkness
  12. Loon Point
  13. Petals
  14. Roads
  15. Song
  16. Suggested By The Cover Of A Volume Of Keats Poems
  17. Summer
  18. The End
  19. The Poet
  20. The Starling
  21. The Way
  22. To John Keats
  23. Venetian Glass




    Biographical information

      Name: Amy Lawrence Lowell
      Place and date of birth: Brookline, Massachusetts (United States); February 9, 1874
      Place and date of death: Massachusetts (United States); May 12, 1925 (aged 51)

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      A Fairy Tale

        On winter nights beside the nursery fire
        We read the fairy tale, while glowing coals
        Builded its pictures. There before our eyes
        We saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone
        Uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung
        With pendent stalactites like frozen vines;
        And all along the walls at intervals,
        Curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed,
        And ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves
        Divided where there peered a laughing face.
        The foliage seemed to rustle in the wind,
        A silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone.
        High pointed windows pierced the southern wall
        Whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires
        To stain the tessellated marble floor
        With pools of red, and quivering green, and blue;
        And in the shade beyond the further door,
        Its sober squares of black and white were hid
        Beneath a restless, shuffling, wideeyed mob
        Of lackeys and retainers come to view
        The Christening.

        A sudden blare of trumpets, and the throng
        About the entrance parted as the guests
        Filed singly in with rare and precious gifts.
        Our eager fancies noted all they brought,
        The glorious, unattainable delights!
        But always there was one unbidden guest
        Who cursed the child and left it bitterness.

        The fire falls asunder, all is changed,
        I am no more a child, and what I see
        Is not a fairy tale, but life, my life.
        The gifts are there, the many pleasant things:
        Health, wealth, longsettled friendships, with a name
        Which honors all who bear it, and the power
        Of making words obedient. This is much;
        But overshadowing all is still the curse,
        That never shall I be fulfilled by love!
        Along the parching highroad of the world
        No other soul shall bear mine company.
        Always shall I be teased with semblances,
        With cruel impostures, which I trust awhile
        Then dash to pieces, as a careless boy
        Flings a kaleidoscope, which shattering
        Strews all the ground about with coloured sherds.
        So I behold my visions on the ground
        No longer radiant, an ignoble heap
        Of broken, dusty glass. And so, unlit,
        Even by hope or faith, my dragging steps
        Force me forever through the passing days.

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      A Little Song

        When you, my Dear, are away, away,
        How wearily goes the creeping day.
        A year drags after morning, and night
        Starts another year of candle light.
        O Pausing Sun and Lingering Moon!
        Grant me, I beg of you, this boon.

        Whirl round the earth as never sun
        Has his diurnal journey run.
        And, Moon, slip past the ladders of air
        In a single flash, while your streaming hair
        Catches the stars and pulls them down
        To shine on some slumbering Chinese town.
        O Kindly Sun! Understanding Moon!
        Bring evening to crowd the footsteps of noon.

        But when that long awaited day
        Hangs ripe in the heavens, your voyaging stay.
        Be morning, O Sun! with the lark in song,
        Be afternoon for ages long.
        And, Moon, let you and your lesser lights
        Watch over a century of nights.

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      A Winter Ride

        Who shall declare the joy of the running!
        Who shall tell of the pleasures of flight!
        Springing and spurning the tufts of wild heather,
        Sweeping, widewinged, through the blue dome of light.
        Everything mortal has moments immortal,
        Swift and Godgifted, immeasurably bright.

        So with the stretch of the white road before me,
        Shining snowcrystals rainbowed by the sun,
        Fields that are white, stained with long, cool, blue shadows,
        Strong with the strength of my horse as we run.
        Joy in the touch of the wind and the sunlight!
        Joy! With the vigorous earth I am one.

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      Apples Of Hesperides

        Glinting golden through the trees,
        Apples of Hesperides!
        Through the moonpierced warp of night
        Shoot pale shafts of yellow light,
        Swaying to the kissing breeze
        Swings the treasure, goldengleaming,
        Apples of Hesperides!.

        Far and lofty yet they glimmer,
        Apples of Hesperides!
        Blinded by their radiant shimmer,
        Pushing forward just for these;
        Dewbesprinkled, bramblemarred,
        Poor duped mortal, travelscarred,
        Always thinking soon to seize
        And possess the goldenglistening
        Apples of Hesperides!.

        Orbed, and glittering, and pendent,
        Apples of Hesperides!
        Not one missing, still transcendent,
        Clustering like a swarm of bees.
        Yielding to no man's desire,
        Glowing with a saffron fire,
        Splendid, unassailed, the golden
        Apples of Hesperides!.

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      At Night

        The wind is singing through the trees tonight,
        A deepvoiced song of rushing cadences
        And crashing intervals. No summer breeze
        Is this, though hot July is at its height,
        Gone is her gentler music; with delight
        She listens to this booming like the seas,
        These elemental, loud necessities
        Which call to her to answer their swift might.
        Above the tossing trees shines down a star,
        Quietly bright; this wild, tumultuous joy
        Quickens nor dims its splendour. And my mind,
        O Star! is filled with your white light, from far,
        So suffer me this one night to enjoy
        The freedom of the onward sweeping wind.

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      Azure And Gold

        April had covered the hills
        With flickering yellows and reds,
        The sparkle and coolness of snow
        Was blown from the mountain beds.

        Across a deepsunken stream
        The pink of blossoming trees,
        And from windless appleblooms
        The humming of many bees.

        The air was of rose and gold
        Arabesqued with the song of birds
        Who, swinging unseen under leaves,
        Made music more eager than words.

        Of a sudden, aslant the road,
        A brightness to dazzle and stun,
        A glint of the bluest blue,
        A flash from a sapphire sun.

        Bluebirds so blue, 't was a dream,
        An impossible, unconceived hue,
        The high sky of summer dropped down
        Some rapturous ocean to woo.

        Such a colour, such infinite light!
        The heart of a fabulous gem,
        Manyfaceted, brilliant and rare.
        Centre Stone of the earth's diadem!.

        Centre Stone of the Crown of the World,
        "Sincerity" graved on your youth!
        And your eyes hold the bluebird flash,
        The sapphire shaft, which is truth.

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      Before The Altar

        Before the Altar, bowed, he stands
        With empty hands;
        Upon it perfumed offerings burn
        Wreathing with smoke the sacrificial urn.
        Not one of all these has he given,
        No flame of his has leapt to Heaven
        Firesouled, vermilionhearted,
        Forked, and darted,
        Consuming what a few spare pence
        Have cheaply bought, to fling from hence
        In idlyasked petition.

        His sole condition
        Love and poverty.
        And while the moon
        Swings slow across the sky,
        Athwart a waving pine tree,
        And soon
        Tips all the needles there
        With silver sparkles, bitterly
        He gazes, while his soul
        Grows hard with thinking of the poorness of his dole.

        "Shining and distant Goddess, hear my prayer
        Where you swim in the high air!
        With charity look down on me,
        Under this tree,
        Tending the gifts I have not brought,
        The rare and goodly things
        I have not sought.
        Instead, take from me all my life!.

        "Upon the wings
        Of shimmering moonbeams
        I pack my poet's dreams
        For you.
        My wearying strife,
        My courage, my loss,
        Into the night I toss
        For you.
        Golden Divinity,
        Deign to look down on me
        Who so unworthily
        Offers to you:
        All life has known,
        Seeds withered unsown,
        Hopes turning quick to fears,
        Laughter which dies in tears.
        The shredded remnant of a man
        Is all the span
        And compass of my offering to you.

        "Empty and silent, I
        Kneel before your pure, calm majesty.
        On this stone, in this urn
        I pour my heart and watch it burn,
        Myself the sacrifice; but be
        Still unmoved: Divinity."

        From the altar, bathed in moonlight,
        The smoke rose straight in the quiet night.

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      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 halfripe pears, and then, unkind,
        Tumbles aslumber 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.

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      Fragment: What is poetry? Is it a mosaic

        What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
        Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
        Into a pattern? Rather glass that's taught
        By patient labor any hue to take
        And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
        Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
        Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
        With storied meaning for religion's sake.

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      From One Who Stays

        How empty seems the town now you are gone!
        A wilderness of sad streets, where gaunt walls
        Hide nothing to desire; sunshine falls
        Eery, distorted, as it long had shone
        On white, dead faces tombed in halls of stone.
        The whir of motors, stricken through with calls
        Of playing boys, floats up at intervals;
        But all these noises blur to one long moan.
        What quest is worth pursuing? And how strange
        That other men still go accustomed ways!
        I hate their interest in the things they do.
        A spectrehorde repeating without change
        An old routine. Alone I know the days
        Are stillborn, and the world stopped, lacking you.

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      In Darkness

        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.

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      Loon Point

        Softly the water ripples
        Against the canoe's curving side,
        Softly the birch trees rustle
        Flinging over us branches wide.

        Softly the moon glints and glistens
        As the water takes and leaves,
        Like golden ears of corn
        Which fall from loosebound sheaves,

        Or like the snowwhite petals
        Which drop from an overblown rose,
        When Summer ripens to Autumn
        And the freighted year must close.

        From the shore come the scents of a garden,
        And between a gap in the trees
        A proud white statue glimmers
        In cold, disdainful ease.

        The child of a southern people,
        The thought of an alien race,
        What does she in this pale, northern garden,
        How reconcile it with her grace?.

        But the moon in her wayward beauty
        Is ever and always the same,
        As lovely as when upon Latmos
        She watched till Endymion came.

        Through the water the moon writes her legends
        In light, on the smooth, wet sand;
        They endure for a moment, and vanish,
        And no one may understand.

        All round us the secret of Nature
        Is telling itself to our sight,
        We may guess at her meaning but never
        Can know the full mystery of night.

        But her power of enchantment is on us,
        We bow to the spell which she weaves,
        Made up of the murmur of waves
        And the manifold whisper of leaves.

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      Petals

        Life is a stream
        On which we strew
        Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
        The end lost in dream,
        They float past our view,
        We only watch their glad, early start.

        Freighted with hope,
        Crimsoned with joy,
        We scatter the leaves of our opening rose;
        Their widening scope,
        Their distant employ,
        We never shall know. And the stream as it flows
        Sweeps them away,
        Each one is gone
        Ever beyond into infinite ways.
        We alone stay
        While years hurry on,
        The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.

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      Roads

        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 myriadvoiced, 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 honeybee humming in June.
        'T is the rhythmic beat of a horse's feet
        And the pattering paws of a sheepdog bitch;
        'T is the creaking trees, and the singing breeze,
        And the rustle of leaves in the roadside 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 sunspattered 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 swiftfalling 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.

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      Song

        Oh! To be a flower
        Nodding in the sun,
        Bending, then upspringing
        As the breezes run;
        Holding up
        A scentbrimmed cup,
        Full of summer's fragrance to the summer sun.

        Oh! To be a butterfly
        Still, upon a flower,
        Winking with its painted wings,
        Happy in the hour.
        Blossoms hold
        Mines of gold
        Deep within the farthest heart of each chaliced flower.

        Oh! To be a cloud
        Blowing through the blue,
        Shadowing the mountains,
        Rushing loudly through
        Valleys deep
        Where torrents keep
        Always their plunging thunder and their misty arch of blue.

        Oh! To be a wave
        Splintering on the sand,
        Drawing back, but leaving
        Lingeringly the land.
        Rainbow light
        Flashes bright
        Telling tales of coral caves half hid in yellow sand.

        Soon they die, the flowers;
        Insects live a day;
        Clouds dissolve in showers;
        Only waves at play
        Last forever.
        Shall endeavor
        Make a sea of purpose mightier than we dream today?.

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      Suggested By The Cover Of A Volume Of Keats' Poems

        Wild little bird, who chose thee for a sign
        To put upon the cover of this book?
        Who heard thee singing in the distance dim,
        The vague, far greenness of the enshrouding wood,
        When the damp freshness of the morning earth
        Was full of pungent sweetness and thy song?

        Who followed over moss and twisted roots,
        And pushed through the wet leaves of trailing vines
        Where slanting sunbeams gleamed uncertainly,
        While ever clearer came the dropping notes,
        Until, at last, two widening trunks disclosed
        Thee singing on a spray of branching beech,
        Hidden, then seen; and always that same song
        Of joyful sweetness, rapture incarnate,
        Filled the hushed, rustling stillness of the wood?.

        We do not know what bird thou art. Perhaps
        That fairy bird, fabled in island tale,
        Who never sings but once, and then his song
        Is of such fearful beauty that he dies
        From sheer exuberance of melody.

        For this they took thee, little bird, for this
        They captured thee, tilting among the leaves,
        And stamped thee for a symbol on this book.
        For it contains a song surpassing thine,
        Richer, more sweet, more poignant. And the poet
        Who felt this burning beauty, and whose heart
        Was full of loveliest things, sang all he knew
        A little while, and then he died; too frail
        To bear this untamed, passionate burst of song.

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      Summer

        Some men there are who find in nature all
        Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
        Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
        To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
        And they hold dear communion with the hills;
        The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
        And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
        To them a city is a prison house
        Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
        Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
        But where in winter they must live until
        Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
        To me it is not so. I love the earth
        And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
        Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
        Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
        And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
        But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
        I love the very human heart of man.
        Above me spreads the hot, blue midday sky,
        Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
        Lazily reflecting back the sun,
        And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
        Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
        The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
        The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
        And it is summer, glorious, deeptoned summer,
        The very crown of nature's changing year
        When all her surging life is at its full.
        To me alone it is a time of pause,
        A void and silent space between two worlds,
        When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
        Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
        For life alone is creator of life,
        And closest contact with the human world
        Is like a lantern shining in the night
        To light me to a knowledge of myself.
        I love the vivid life of winter months
        In constant intercourse with human minds,
        When every new experience is gain
        And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
        The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!.

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      The End

        Throughout the echoing chambers of my brain
        I hear your words in mournful cadence toll
        Like some slow passingbell which warns the soul
        Of sundering darkness. Unrelenting, fain
        To batter down resistance, fall again
        Stroke after stroke, insistent diastole,
        The bitter blows of truth, until the whole
        Is hammered into fact made strangely plain.
        Where shall I look for comfort? Not to you.
        Our worlds are drawn apart, our spirit's suns
        Divided, and the light of mine burnt dim.
        Now in the haunted twilight I must do
        Your will. I grasp the cup which overruns,
        And with my trembling lips I touch the rim.


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      The Poet

        What instinct forces man to journey on,
        Urged by a longing blind but dominant!
        Nothing he sees can hold him, nothing daunt
        His never failing eagerness. The sun
        Setting in splendour every night has won
        His vassalage; those towers flamboyant
        Of airy cloudland palaces now haunt
        His daylight wanderings. Forever done
        With simple joys and quiet happiness
        He guards the vision of the sunset sky;
        Though faint with weariness he must possess
        Some fragment of the sunset's majesty;
        He spurns life's human friendships to profess
        Life's loneliness of dreaming ecstasy.

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      The Starling

        'I can't get out', said the starling'
        Sterne's `Sentimental Journey'.

        Forever the impenetrable wall
        Of self confines my poor rebellious soul,
        I never see the towering white clouds roll
        Before a sturdy wind, save through the small
        Barred window of my jail. I live a thrall
        With all my outer life a clipped, square hole,
        Rectangular; a fraction of a scroll
        Unwound and winding like a worsted ball.
        My thoughts are grown uneager and depressed
        Through being always mine, my fancy's wings
        Are moulted and the feathers blown away.
        I weary for desires never guessed,
        For alien passions, strange imaginings,
        To be some other person for a day.

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      The Way

        At first a mere thread of a footpath half blotted out by the grasses
        Sweeping triumphant across it, it wound between hedges of roses
        Whose blossoms were poised above leaves as pond lilies float on the water,
        While hidden by bloom in a hawthorn a bird filled the morning with singing.

        It widened a highway, majestic, stretching ever to distant horizons,
        Where shadows of treebranches wavered, vague outlines invaded by sunshine;
        No sound but the wind as it whispered the secrets of earth to the flowers,
        And the hum of the yellow bees, honeyladen and dusty with pollen.
        And Summer said, "Come, follow onward, with no thought save the longing
        to wander,
        The wind, and the bees, and the flowers, all singing the great song
        of Nature,
        Are minstrels of change and of promise, they herald the joy of the Future."

        Later the solitude vanished, confused and distracted the road
        Where many were seeking and jostling. Left behind were the trees
        and the flowers,
        The halfrealized beauty of quiet, the sacred unconscious communing.
        And now he is come to a river, a line of gray, sullen water,
        Not blue and splashing, but dark, rolling somberly on to the ocean.
        But on the far side is a city whose windows flame gold in the sunset.
        It lies fair and shining before him, a gem set betwixt sky and water,
        And spanning the river a bridge, frail promise to longing desire,
        Flung by man in his infinite courage, across the stern force of the water;
        And he looks at the river and fears, the bridge is so slight,
        yet he ventures
        His life to its fragile keeping, if it fails the waves will engulf him.
        O Arches! be strong to uphold him, and bear him across to the city,
        The beautiful city whose spires still glow with the fires of sunset!.

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      To John Keats

        Great master! Boyish, sympathetic man!
        Whose orbed and ripened genius lightly hung
        From life's slim, twisted tendril and there swung
        In crimsonsphered completeness; guardian
        Of crystal portals through whose openings fan
        The spiced winds which blew when earth was young,
        Scattering wreaths of stars, as Jove once flung
        A golden shower from heights cerulean.
        Crumbled before thy majesty we bow.
        Forget thy empurpled state, thy panoply
        Of greatness, and be merciful and near;
        A youth who trudged the highroad we tread now
        Singing the miles behind him; so may we
        Faint throbbings of thy music overhear.

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      Venetian Glass

        As one who sails upon a wide, blue sea
        Far out of sight of land, his mind intent
        Upon the sailing of his little boat,
        On tightening ropes and shaping fair his course,
        Hears suddenly, across the restless sea,
        The rhythmic striking of some towered clock,
        And wakes from thoughtless idleness to time:
        Time, the slow pulse which beats eternity!
        So through the vacancy of busy life
        At intervals you cross my path and bring
        The deep solemnity of passing years.
        For you I have shed bitter tears, for you
        I have relinquished that for which my heart
        Cried out in selfish longing. And tonight
        Having just left you, I can say: "'T is well.
        Thank God that I have known a soul so true,
        So nobly just, so worthy to be loved!".

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