August 14th, 1914
Into the brazen, burnished sky, the cry hurls itself. The
of hoarse throats, it floats against the hard winds, and binds the
of the serpent to its tail, the long snail-slow serpent of marching
Men weighed down with rifles and knapsacks, and parching with war.
The cry jars and splits against the brazen, burnished sky.
This is the war of wars, and the cause? Has
this writhing worm of men
Crackling against the polished sky is an eagle
with a sword. The eagle is red
and its head is flame.
In the shoulder of the worm is a teacher.
His tongue laps the war-sucked air in drought,
but he yells defiance
at the red-eyed eagle, and in his ears are the bells of new philosophies,
and their tinkling drowns the sputter of the burning sword. He
"God damn you! When you are broken, the word will strike
out new shoots."
His boots are tight, the sun is hot, and he may
be shot, but he is in
the shoulder of the worm.
A dust speck in the worm's belly is a poet.
He laughs at the flaring eagle and makes a long
nose with his fingers.
He will fight for smooth, white sheets of paper, and uncurdled ink.
The sputtering sword cannot make him blink, and his thoughts are
wet and rippling. They cool his heart.
He will tear the eagle out of the sky and give
the earth tranquillity,
and loveliness printed on white paper.
The eye of the serpent is an owner of mills.
He looks at the glaring sword which has snapped
and struck away his men.
But it will all come again, when the sword is broken
to a million dying stars,
and there are no more wars.
Bankers, butchers, shop-keepers, painters, farmers -- men, sway
They will fight for the earth, for the increase of the slow, sure
of peace, for the release of hidden forces. They jibe
at the eagle
and his scorching sword.
One! Two! -- One! Two! --
clump the heavy boots. The cry hurtles
against the sky.
Each man pulls his belt a little tighter, and shifts
to make it lighter. Each man thinks of a woman, and slaps
out a curse
at the eagle. The sword jumps in the hot sky, and the
worm crawls on
to the battle, stubbornly.
This is the war of wars, from eye to tail the serpent
has one cause:
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.
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
in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white
the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is
too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright
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.
In the fresh-washed sunlight, the breakfast table
is decked and white.
It offers itself in flat surrender, tendering tastes, and smells,
and colours, and metals, and grains, and the white cloth falls over
draped and wide. Wheels of white glitter in the silver
hot and spinning like catherine-wheels, they whirl, and twirl --
and my eyes
begin to smart, the little white, dazzling wheels prick them like
Placid and peaceful, the rolls of bread spread themselves in the
sun to bask.
A stack of butter-pats, pyramidal, shout orange through the white,
flutter, call: "Yellow! Yellow! Yellow!" Coffee
steam rises in a stream,
clouds the silver tea-service with mist, and twists up into the
revolved, involuted, suspiring higher and higher, fluting in a thin
up the high blue sky. A crow flies by and croaks at the
The day is new and fair with good smells in the air.
Over the street the white clouds meet, and sheer
away without touching.
On the sidewalks, boys are playing marbles. Glass
with amber and blue hearts, roll together and part with a sweet
clashing noise. The boys strike them with black and red
The glass marbles spit crimson when they are hit, and slip into
under rushing brown water. I smell tulips and narcissus
in the air,
but there are no flowers anywhere, only white dust whipping up the
and a girl with a gay Spring hat and blowing skirts. The
dust and the wind
flirt at her ankles and her neat, high-heeled patent leather shoes. Tap,
the little heels pat the pavement, and the wind rustles among the
on her hat.
A water-cart crawls slowly on the other side of
the way. It is green and gay
with new paint, and rumbles contentedly, sprinkling clear water
the white dust. Clear zigzagging water, which smells
of tulips and narcissus.
The thickening branches make a pink `grisaille'
against the blue sky.
Whoop! The clouds go dashing at each
other and sheer away just in time.
Whoop! And a man's hat careers down the street in front
of the white dust,
leaps into the branches of a tree, veers away and trundles ahead
of the wind,
jarring the sunlight into spokes of rose-colour and green.
A motor-car cuts a swathe through the bright air,
shouting to the wind to make way. A glare of dust and
tosses together behind it, and settles down. The sky
is quiet and high,
and the morning is fair with fresh-washed air.
Midday and Afternoon
Swirl of crowded streets. Shock and
recoil of traffic. The stock-still
brick facade of an old church, against which the waves of people
lurch and withdraw. Flare of sunshine down side-streets. Eddies
in the windows of chemists' shops, with their blue, gold, purple
darting colours far into the crowd. Loud bangs and tremors,
murmurings out of high windows, whirring of machine belts,
blurring of horses and motors. A quick spin and shudder
on an electric car, and the jar of a church-bell knocking against
the metal blue of the sky. I am a piece of the town,
a bit of blown dust,
thrust along with the crowd. Proud to feel the pavement
reeling with feet. Feet tripping, skipping, lagging,
plodding doggedly, or springing up and advancing on firm elastic
A boy is selling papers, I smell them clean and new from the press.
They are fresh like the air, and pungent as tulips and narcissus.
The blue sky pales to lemon, and great tongues
of gold blind the shop-windows,
putting out their contents in a flood of flame.
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 blow into patterns of fire-flowers as the sky fades. Trades
in spots of light at the unruffled night. Twinkle, jab,
snap, that means
a new play; and over the way: plop, drop, quiver, is
sliver of a watchmaker's sign with its length on another street.
A gigantic mug of beer effervesces to the atmosphere over a tall
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
it has come but recently from the high sky. There are
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
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
queer tales of old days, and cobbled streets, and youths leaping
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
tulips and narcissus . . . I smell them in the air.
Throughout the echoing chambers of my brain
I hear your words in mournful cadence toll
Like some slow passing-bell 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 over-runs,
And with my trembling lips I touch the rim.
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.
The wind is singing through the trees to-night,
A deep-voiced 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.
Poetry: Amy Lowell - The Allies - A Tulip Garden - Spring Day - The End - Fragment - At Night - Links to her poems
Ricardo M Marcenaro - Facebook
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