Amy Lowell (poet)

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Amy Lowell on the cover of Time magazine, March 2, 1925. This issue included a favorable review of Amy Lowell's biography of John Keats.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was an influential modern American poet and critic, and posthumous winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926. During her lifetime, her work was largely overshadowed and overlooked by her more famous relatives, James Russell Lowell and Robert Lowell. Although she authored hundreds of poems, only a few have survived in poetry compendiums, and those works still known include Patterns and Lilacs.

Sample poem

 Patterns, by Amy Lowell[1]
 I walk down the garden paths,
 And all the daffodils
 Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
 I walk down the patterned garden paths
 In my stiff, brocaded gown.
 With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
 I too am a rare
 Pattern. As I wander down
 The garden paths.
 My dress is richly figured,
 And the train
 Makes a pink and silver stain
 On the gravel, and the thrift
 Of the borders.
 Just a plate of current fashion,
 Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
 Not a softness anywhere about me,
 Only whale-bone and brocade.
 And I sink on a seat in the shade
 Of a lime tree. For my passion
 Wars against the stiff brocade.
 The daffodils and squills
 Flutter in the breeze
 As they please.
 And I weep;
 For the lime tree is in blossom
 And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.
 And the plashing of waterdrops
 In the marble fountain
 Comes down the garden paths.
 The dripping never stops.
 Underneath my stiffened gown
 Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
 A basin in the midst of hedges grown
 So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
 But she guesses he is near,
 And the sliding of the water
 Seems the stroking of a dear
 Hand upon her.
 What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
 I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
 All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.
 I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
 And he would stumble after
 Bewildered by my laughter.
 I should see the sun flashing from his sword hilt and the buckles
     on his shoes.
 I would choose
 To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
 A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
 Till he caught me in the shade,
 And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
 Aching, melting, unafraid.
 With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
 And the plopping of the waterdrops,
 All about us in the open afternoon--
 I am very like to swoon
 With the weight of this brocade,
 For the sun sifts through the shade.
 Underneath the fallen blossom
 In my bosom,
 Is a letter I have hid.
 It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
 “Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
 Died in action Thursday sen'night.”
 As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
 The letters squirmed like snakes.
 “Any answer, Madam,” said my footman.
 “No,” I told him.
 “See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
 No, no answer.”
 And I walked into the garden,
 Up and down the patterned paths,
 In my stiff, correct brocade.
 The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
 Each one.
 I stood upright too,
 Held rigid to the pattern
 By the stiffness of my gown.
 Up and down I walked,
 Up and down.
 In a month he would have been my husband.
 In a month, here, underneath this lime,
 We would have broke the pattern.
 He for me, and I for him,
 He as Colonel, I as Lady,
 On this shady seat.
 He had a whim
 That sunlight carried blessing.
 And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.”
 Now he is dead.
 In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
 Up and down
 The patterned garden paths
 In my stiff, brocaded gown.
 The squills and daffodils
 Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
 I shall go
 Up and down,
 In my gown.
 Gorgeously arrayed,
 Boned and stayed.
 And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
 By each button, hook, and lace.
 For the man who should loose me is dead,
 Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
 In a pattern called a war.
 Christ! What are patterns for?

Notes

  1. Patterns was printed in several anthologies, including this one: Some Imagist Poets, 1916, last accessed 11-4-2020