Jan '03 [Home]

Master PoemsColors

Arthur Rimbaud "Vowels"
Guillaume Apollinaire "Rhénane d'Automne"
Alfred Lord Tennyson "Now sleeps the crimson petal"
D.H. Lawrence "Bavarian Gentians"
e. e. cummings
"All in green went my love riding"
Robert Lowell
"Waking in the Blue", "Father's Bedroom", "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket"
Wallace Stevens "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock", "Poem Written at Morning", "Gray Room", "Continual Conversation with a Silent Man"
Sylvia Plath "Berck-Plage"
Weldon Kees
"At the Beach", "Covering Two Years"
Dylan Thomas
"Once It Was the Colour of Saying"
James Ragan
"The Eskimo's Twelve Expressions for White"
Charles Wright
"Yellow" and "White"
. . .
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue:  vowels,
One of these days, I will tell your hidden source:
A, shimmering flies in a hairy black corset
That drone around mean, foul-smelling things,

Gulfs of shadow; E, openness of mists and canopies,
Spears of proud glaciers, white kings; quivers of bellflowers;
I, crimsons, spat out blood, laughter of pretty mouths
In anger or on penitent drinking sprees;

U, rounds, divine vibrations of blue-green oceans,
Tranquillity of pastures sprinkled with animals, of lines
that alchemy prints on big, bookish foreheads;

O, Clarion supreme, full of shrill and strange,
Of silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:
— Oh, Omega, purple beam from His Eyes!


(Transl. Maureen Holm)

~ . ~

Rh�nane d'Automne
Guillaume Apollinaire

Mon verre est plein d'un vin trembleur comme une flamme
Ecoutez la chanson lente d'un batelier
Qui raconte avoir vu sous la lune sept femmes
Tordre leurs cheveux verts et longs jusqu'à leurs pieds

Debout chantez plus haut en dansant une ronde
Que je n'entende plus le chant du batelier
Et mettez près de moi toutes les filles blondes
Au regard immobile aux nattes repliées

Le Rhin le Rhin est ivre où les vignes se mirent
Tout l'or des nuits tombe en tremblant s'y refléter
La voix chante toujours à un râle-mourir
Ces fées aux cheveux verts qui incantent l'été

Mon verre s'est brisé comme un éclat de rire

~ .

Rhenish Autumn Song
Guillaume Apollinaire

My glass is full of a shaky wine like a flame
Listen to the slow song of a boatman
Tell of seven women he saw beneath the moon
Twist the green hair that reached to their feet

Stand, sing more loudly, as you dance a rondelay
So that I no longer hear the boatman's singing,
And put all the blonde girls close to me
With the stare, with the rewoven braids

The Rhine, the Rhine is drunk where the vineyards twin-image
All the nights' gold falls trembling to reflect in it
The voice goes on singing to its death rattle end
Those green-haired fairies who conjure up summer

My glass breaks like a burst of laughter

(Transl. Maureen Holm)

~ . ~

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens:  waken thou with me.
Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the earth all Dana{:e} to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

(from The Princess)

~ . ~

Bavarian Gentians
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto's gloom,
ribbed and torchlike, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto's dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness.
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness was awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendor of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on the lost bride and groom.

(Last Poems, ed. Richard Aldington (London: Martin Secker, 1933)

~ . ~

All in green went my love riding
e. e. cummings (Songs)

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.

Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.

Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.

Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn. . . .

~ . ~

Waking in the Blue
Robert Lowell

The night attendant, a B.U. sophomore,
rouses from the mare's-nest of his drowsy head
propped on The Meaning of Meaning.
He catwalks down our corridor.
Azure day
makes my agonized blue window bleaker.
Crows maunder on the petrified fairway.
Absence! My heart: grows tense
as though a harpoon were sparring for the kill.
(This is the house for the "mentally ill.") . . .

~ .

Father's Bedroom
Robert Lowell

In my Father's bedroom:
blue threads as thin
as pen-writing on the bedspread,
blue dots on the curtains,
a blue kimono,
Chinese sandals with blue plush straps
The broad-planked floor
had a sandpapered neatness
The clear glass bed-lamp
with a white doily shade
was still raised a few
inches by resting on volume two
of Lafcadio Hearn's
Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan . . .

~ .

The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket
Robert Lowell


When the whale's viscera go and the roll
Of its corruption overruns this world
Beyond tree-swept Nantucket and Wood's Hole
whistle and fall and sink into the fat?
In the great ash-pit of Jehoshaphat
The bones cry for the blood of the white whale,
The fat flukes arch and whack about its ears,
The death-lance churns into the sanctuary, tears
The gun-blue swingle, heaving like a flail,
And hacks the coiling life out:  it works and drags
And rips the sperm-whale's midriff into rags,
Gobbets of blubber spill to wind and weather,
Sailor and gulls go round the stoven timbers
Where the morning stars sing out together
And thunder shakes the white surf and dismembers
The red flag hammered in the mast-head. Hide
Our steel, Jonas Messias, in Thy side.


The empty winds are creaking and the oak
Splatters and splatters on the cenotaph,
The boughs are trembling and a gaff
Bobs on the untimely stroke
Of the greased wash exploding on a shoal-bell
In the old mouth of the Atlantic. It's well;
Atlantic, you are fouled with the blue sailors,
Sea-monsters, upward angel, downward fish:
Unmarried and corroding, spare of flesh
Mart once of supercilious, winged clippers,
Atlantic, where your bell-trap guts its spoil
You could cut the brackish winds with a knife
Here in Nantucket and cast up the time
When the Lord God formed man from the sea's slime
And breathed into his face the breath of life,
And the blue-lung'd combers lumbered to the kill.
The Lord survives the rainbow of His will.


~ . ~

Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock
Wallace Stevens

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather.

~ .

Poem Written at Morning
Wallace Stevens

A sunny day's complete Poussiniana
Divide it from itself. It is this or that
And it is not.
By metaphor you paint
A thing. Thus, the pineapple was a leather fruit,
A fruit for pewter, thorned and palmed and blue,
To be served by men of ice.
The senses paint
By metaphor. The juice was fragranter
Than wettest cinnamon. It was cribled pears
Dripping a morning sap.
The truth must be
That you do not see, you experience, you feel,
That the buxom eye brings merely its element
To the total thing, a shapeless giant forced
Green were the curls upon that head.

~ .

Gray Room
Wallace Stevens

Although you sit in a room that is gray,
Except for the silver
Of the straw-paper,
And pick
At your pale white gown;
Or lift one of the green beads
Of your necklace,
To let it fall;
Or gaze at your green fan
Printed with the red branches of a red willow;
Or, with one finger,
Move the leaf in the bowl—
The leaf that has fallen from the branches of the forsythia
Beside you...
What is all this?
I know how furiously your heart is beating.

~ .

Continual Conversation With A Silent Man
Wallace Stevens

The old brown hen and the old blue sky,
Between the two we live and die—
The broken cartwheel on the hill.

As if, in the presence of the sea,
We dried our nets and mended sail
And talked of never-ending things,

Of the never-ending storm of will,
One will and many wills, and the wind,
Of many meanings in the leaves,

Brought down to one below the eaves,
Link, of that tempest, to the farm,
The chain of the turquoise hen and sky

And the wheel that broke as the cart went by.
It is not a voice that is under the eaves.
It is not speech, the sound we hear

In this conversation, but the sound
Of things and their motion:  the other man,
A turquoise monster moving round.

~ . ~

Sylvia Plath


This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
How the sun's poultice draws on my inflammation.

Electrifyingly-colored sherbets, scooped from the freeze
By pale girls, travel the air in scorched hands.

Why is it so quiet, what are they hiding?
I have two legs, and I move smilingly..

A sandy damper kills the vibrations;
It stretches for miles, the shrunk voices

Waving and crutchless, half their old size.
The lines of the eye, scalded by these bald surfaces,

Boomerang like anchored elastics, hurting the owner.
Is it any wonder he puts on dark glasses?

Is it any wonder he affects a black cassock?
Here he comes now, among the mackerel gatherers

Who wall up their backs against him.
They are handling the black and green lozenges like the parts of a body.

The sea, that crystallized these,
Creeps away, many-snaked, with a long hiss of distress.


This black boot has no mercy for anybody.
Why should it, it is the hearse of a dead foot,

The high, dead, toeless foot of this priest
Who plumbs the well of his book,

The bent print bulging before him like scenery.
Obscene bikinis hid in the dunes,

Breasts and hips a confectioner's sugar
Of little crystals, titillating the light,

While a green pool opens its eye,
Sick with what it has swallowed——

Limbs, images, shrieks. Behind the concrete bunkers
Two lovers unstick themselves.

O white sea-crockery,
What cupped sighs, what salt in the throat.…

And the onlooker, trembling,
Drawn like a long material

Through a still virulence,
And a weed, hairy as privates.


On the balconies of the hotel, things are glittering.
Things, things——

Tubular steel wheelchairs, aluminum crutches.
Such salt-sweetness. Why should I walk

Beyond the breakwater, spotty with barnacles?
I am not a nurse, white and attendant,

I am not a smile.
These children are after something, with hooks and cries,

And my heart too small to bandage their terrible faults.
This is the side of a man: his red ribs,

The nerves bursting like trees, and this is the surgeon:
One mirrory eye——

A facet of knowledge.
On a striped mattress in one room

An old man is vanishing.
There is no help in his weeping wife.

Where are the eye-stones, yellow and valuable,
And the tongue, sapphire of ash.  . . .

~ . ~

The Beach
Weldon Kees

Squat, unshaven, full of gas,
Joseph Samuels, former clerk
in four large cities, out of work,
waits in the darkened underpass.

In sanctuary, out of reach,
he stares at the fading light outside:
the rain beginning:  hears the tide
that drums along the empty beach.

When drops first fell at six o'clock,
the bathers left. The last car's gone.
Sun's final rays reflect upon
the streaking rain, the rambling dock.

He takes an object from his coat
and holds it tightly in his hand
(eyes on the stretch of endless sand).
And then, in darkness, cuts his throat.

~ .

Covering Two Years
Weldon Kees

This nothingness that feeds upon itself:
Pencils that turn to water in the hand,
Parts of a sentence, hanging in the air,
Thoughts breaking in the mind like glass,
Blank sheets of paper that reflect the world
Whitened the world that I was silenced by.

There were two years of that. Slowly,
Whatever splits, dissevers, cuts, cracks, ravels, or divides
To bring me to that diet of corrosion, burned
And flickered to its terminal.—Now in an older hand
I write my name. Now with a voice grown unfamiliar,
I speak to silences of altered rooms,
Shaken by knowledge of recurrence and return.

~ . ~

Once It Was The Colour Of Saying
Dylan Thomas

Once it was the colour of saying
Soaked my table the uglier side of a hill
With a capsized field where a school sat still
And a black and white patch of girls grew playing;
The gentle seaslides of saying I must undo
That all the charmingly drowned arise to cockcrow and kill.
When I whistled with mitching boys through a reservoir park
Where at night we stoned the cold and cuckoo
Lovers in the dirt of their leafy beds,
The shade of their trees was a word of many shades
And a lamp of lightning for the poor in the dark;
Now my saying shall be my undoing,
And every stone I wind off like a reel.

~ . ~

The Eskimo's Twelve Expressions of White
James Ragan


Iced on the bone
bridge of the eye,
a tear glances at a fire.


An ibex sleeping
on the steppes
of the great Siberian snow
becomes the moon's horizon.


Fog crawls in
at the lip of a lake.
An Aleutian dog has laid down
his steaming breath
to praise a mountain.


In the eye's reflection
stalactite, seeding water,
drips down the hanging scarf
of a cave, now warming.


The twenty spears of a reindeer's horn
bleed before the fish man
whittles bones to eyelets.


The harpoon towing
the whale's white fin
across the Bering Strait
stiffens to track the marmot.


To outrun the elk,
a snow hare lunges deep
into the throat of a glacier.


A snowbank drifts in the
The bear's tracks limp
back to the lost logs of fire.


The starved harp seal,
moled to higher ground,
laps at the light of the Aurora.


Water soaks the fur of the stoat.
His weasel coat browns
to ermine in wrinter.


Within the spined avalanche of hair,
a woolly mammoth sleeps,
frozen in the mountain's skull.


The fire
at the bone bridge of the yue
glances at a tear, now warming.

(From Lusions, Grove 1997)

~ . ~

Charles Wright

Yellow is for regret, the distal, the second hand:
The grasshopper's wing, that yellow, the slur of dust;
Back light, the yellow of loneliness;
The yellow of animals, their yellow eyes;
The holy yellow of death;
Intuitive yellow, the yellow of air;  . . .

(From Hard Freight, Wesleyan U Press, 1973)

~ .

Charles Wright

Carafe, compotier, sea shell, vase:
Blank spaces, white objects;
Luminous knots along the black rope.

*  . . .

The angel, his left hand on your left shoulder;
The bones, in draped white, at the door;
The bed-sheets, the pillow-case; your eyes.

*  . . .

I write your name for the last time in this mist,
White breath on the windowpane,
And watch it vanish. No, it stays there. . . .

(From Hard Freight, Wesleyan)

~ . ~ . ~