English Literature

Men, Women and Ghosts by Amy Lowell


Men, Women and Ghosts by Amy Lowell.jpg



   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 whalebone 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 se'nnight."
   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?

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