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Flaunted fragrance

In honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day, and the very first blooming of my pale, pale lilac, here is "Lilacs" by Amy Lowell. Actually, it's the first two of four stanzas; Amy takes lilacs as seriously as I do.


False blue,



Color of lilac,

Your great puffs of flowers

Are everywhere in this my New England.

Among your heart-shaped leaves

Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing

Their little weak soft songs;

In the crooks of your branches

The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs

Peer restlessly through the light and shadow

Of all Springs.

Lilacs in dooryards

Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;

Lilacs watching a deserted house

Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;

Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom

Above a cellar dug into a hill.

You are everywhere.

You were everywhere.

You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,

And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.

You stood by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,

You persuaded the housewife that her dishpan was of silver.

And her husband an image of pure gold.

You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms

Through the wide doors of Custom Houses—

You, and sandal-wood, and tea,

Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks

When a ship was in from China.

You called to them: “Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,

May is a month for flitting.”

Until they writhed on their high stools

And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.

Paradoxical New England clerks,

Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the “Song of Solomon” at night,

So many verses before bed-time,

Because it was the Bible.

The dead fed you

Amid the slant stones of graveyards.

Pale ghosts who planted you

Came in the nighttime

And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.

You are of the green sea,

And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.

You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,

You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home.

You cover the blind sides of greenhouses

And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass

To your friends, the grapes, inside.

(To read the rest, and you won't be sorry you did, go here.)

Amy Lowell, “Lilacs” from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © renewed 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts, and G. D'Andelot, Esquire

Posted on Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 11:35AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

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