Robert Lowell Selected Poems

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Overview

Selected Poems includes over 200 works culled from Robert Lowell's books of verse—Lord Weary's Castle, The Mills of the Kavanaughs, Life Studies, For the Union Dead, Near the Ocean, History, For Lizzie and Harriet, and The Dolphin. Edited and with a foreword by the poet Frank Bidart, who also edited Collected Poems of Robert Lowell, this volume is a perfectly chosen representation of "the greatest American poet of the mid-century" (Richard Poirier, Book Week).

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Overview

Selected Poems includes over 200 works culled from Robert Lowell's books of verse—Lord Weary's Castle, The Mills of the Kavanaughs, Life Studies, For the Union Dead, Near the Ocean, History, For Lizzie and Harriet, and The Dolphin. Edited and with a foreword by the poet Frank Bidart, who also edited Collected Poems of Robert Lowell, this volume is a perfectly chosen representation of "the greatest American poet of the mid-century" (Richard Poirier, Book Week).

Representing Lowell's work over three decades, this volume includes poems from each of his books, several of which have been revised.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"By far the most famous poet of his era . . . Lowell transformed American poetry." —Charles McGrath, The New York Times Magazine

"Robert Lowell was one of the three or four greatest American poets of the twentieth century . . . his real peers are the classics of American literature: Melville and Whitman, Eliot and Frost . . . Lowell's torrential eloquence, his historical consciousness, his moral and political seriousness are a standing challenge." —Adam Kirsch, The Times Literary Supplement

"Lowell's genius and his grinding labor brought to verse in English not only technical mastery on a scale otherwise scarcely attempted in [the twentieth] century, but then his courage and honesty brought ... a new generosity and dignity to the whole enterprise of poetry." —John Thompson, The New York Review of Books

"The best American poet of his generation." —Time

"The subjects of these poems will eventually become extinct, like all other natural species devoured by time, but the indelible mark of their impression on a single sensibility will remain, in Lowell's votive sculpture, bronzed to imperishability." —Helen Vendler, The Atlantic Monthly

Publishers Weekly
With Collected Poems (2003) and last year's Letters, this selection a much-expanded version by Bidart of Lowell's own late-life culling brings the Herculean effort of restoring Lowell's oeuvre to print and prominence near completion. Next to the colossal Collected Poems, this is a formidable book in its own right, offering a distilled view of the arc of Lowell's whole career and of each of his individual books. From the early formal triumphs of Lord Weary's Castle and The Mills of the Kavanaughs to the seminal Life Studies (which is presented here in its entirety and includes what may be Lowell's most overarching characterization of his work: "I myself am hell"); from the tense and arguably unscrupulous sonnets of History and For Lizzie and Harriet to the dark resolve of The Dolphin and Day by Day: all of Lowell's varied modes are generously represented, along with Bidart's notes from Collected Poems. This book finally makes the breadth of Lowell's great achievement accessible in a single, portable volume. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374530068
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/9/2007
  • Edition description: Second Edition, Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 944,314
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Lowell (1917-77) was the renowned and controversial author of many books of poetry, including For the Union Dead (1964) and Life Studies (1959), both published by FSG, which also published his Collected Poems in 2003.

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Selected Poems


By Robert Lowell

FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX

Copyright © 2006 Harriet Lowell and Sheridan Lowell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-374-53006-8

Contents

Foreword by Frank Bidart............................................xiii FROM Lord Weary's Castle (1946) The Exile's Return..................................................3 The Holy Innocents..................................................4 Colloquy in Black Rock..............................................5 The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket...................................6 In Memory of Arthur Winslow (Death from Cancer).....................11 Mary Winslow........................................................12 The Drunken Fisherman...............................................13 Between the Porch and the Altar.....................................15 The Ghost...........................................................19 In the Cage.........................................................22 At the Indian Killer's Grave........................................23 Mr. Edwards and the Spider..........................................26 After the Surprising Conversions....................................28 The Death of the Sheriff (Noli Me Tangere)..........................30 Where the Rainbow Ends..............................................31 FROM The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951) The Mills of the Kavanaughs.........................................35 Falling Asleep over the Aeneid......................................38 Her Dead Brother....................................................41 Mother Marie Therese................................................42 The Fat Man in the Mirror...........................................46 Thanksgiving's Over.................................................47 Life Studies (1959) PART ONE Beyond the Alps.....................................................53 The Banker's Daughter...............................................55 Inauguration Day: January 1953......................................57 A Mad Negro Soldier Confined at Munich..............................58 PART TWO 91 Revere Street....................................................61 PART THREE Ford Madox Ford.....................................................95 For George Santayana................................................97 To Delmore Schwartz.................................................99 Words for Hart Crane................................................101 PART FOUR: LIFE STUDIES I My Last Afternoon with Uncle Devereux Winslow.......................105 Dunbarton...........................................................110 Grandparents........................................................112 Commander Lowell....................................................114 Terminal Days at Beverly Farms......................................117 Father's Bedroom....................................................119 For Sale............................................................120 Sailing Home from Rapallo...........................................121 During Fever........................................................123 Waking in the Blue..................................................125 Home After Three Months Away........................................127 II Memories of West Street and Lepke...................................129 Man and Wife........................................................131 "To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage"...............................132 Skunk Hour..........................................................133 FROM For the Union Dead (1964) Water...............................................................137 The Old Flame.......................................................139 Middle Age..........................................................141 The Mouth of the Hudson.............................................142 Fall 1961...........................................................143 Florence............................................................144 Eye and Tooth.......................................................146 Alfred Corning Clark................................................148 Child's Song........................................................150 The Public Garden...................................................151 Going to and fro....................................................152 Myopia: a Night.....................................................154 The Drinker.........................................................156 Hawthorne...........................................................158 Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts...........................160 Tenth Muse..........................................................164 The Neo-Classical Urn...............................................165 Caligula............................................................167 July in Washington..................................................169 Buenos Aires........................................................170 Soft Wood...........................................................172 New York 1962: Fragment.............................................174 The Flaw............................................................175 Night Sweat.........................................................177 For the Union Dead..................................................178 FROM Near the Ocean (1967) Near the Ocean......................................................183 1. Waking Early Sunday Morning......................................183 2. Fourth of July in Maine..........................................187 3. The Opposite House...............................................191 4. Central Park.....................................................192 5. Near the Ocean...................................................194 FROM History (1973) History.............................................................199 Man and Woman.......................................................199 Alexander...........................................................200 Death of Alexander..................................................200 Hannibal 1. Roman Disaster at the Trebia............................201 Marcus Cato 234-149 B.C.............................................201 Marcus Cato 95-46 B.C...............................................202 Cicero, the Sacrificial Killing.....................................202 Nunc est bibendum, Cleopatra's Death................................203 Juvenal's Prayer....................................................203 Attila, Hitler......................................................204 Mohammed............................................................204 Death of Count Roland...............................................205 Joinville and Louis IX..............................................205 Dante 3. Buonconte..................................................206 Dames du Temps Jadis................................................206 Coleridge and Richard II............................................207 Bosworth Field......................................................207 Sir Thomas More.....................................................208 Anne Boleyn.........................................................208 Death of Anne Boleyn................................................209 Charles V by Titian.................................................209 Marlowe.............................................................210 Mary Stuart.........................................................210 Rembrandt...........................................................211 The Worst Sinner, Jonathan Edwards' God.............................211 Watchmaker God......................................................212 Robespierre and Mozart as Stage.....................................212 Saint-Just 1767-93..................................................213 Napoleon............................................................213 Waterloo............................................................214 Beethoven...........................................................214 Coleridge...........................................................215 The Lost Tune.......................................................215 Margaret Fuller Drowned.............................................216 Abraham Lincoln.....................................................216 Verdun..............................................................217 Dream of Fair Ladies................................................217 Serpent.............................................................218 Words...............................................................218 Sunrise.............................................................219 Randall Jarrell 1. October 1965.....................................219 Randall Jarrell 2...................................................220 Randall Jarrell 3...................................................220 T. S. Eliot.........................................................221 Ezra Pound..........................................................221 William Carlos Williams.............................................222 Robert Frost........................................................222 Stalin..............................................................223 Caracas 1...........................................................223 The March 1.........................................................224 The March 2.........................................................224 Worse Times.........................................................225 Ulysses.............................................................225 Fever...............................................................226 Two Walls...........................................................226 For Robert Kennedy 1925-68..........................................227 For Eugene McCarthy.................................................227 Publication Day.....................................................228 Lévi-Strauss in London..............................................228 The Nihilist as Hero................................................229 Reading Myself......................................................229 For Elizabeth Bishop 4..............................................230 Death and the Bridge................................................230 Ice.................................................................231 End of a Year.......................................................231 FROM For Lizzie and Harriet (1973) PART ONE Harriet, born January 4, 1957.......................................235 Harriet.............................................................235 Elizabeth...........................................................236 These Winds (Harriet)...............................................236 Harriet.............................................................237 PART TWO Snake...............................................................238 Christmas Tree......................................................238 Dear Sorrow.........................................................239 Harriet's Dream.....................................................239 Left Out of Vacation................................................240 Das Ewig Weibliche..................................................240 Our Twentieth Wedding Anniversary (Elizabeth).......................241 The Hard Way (Harriet)..............................................241 Words for Muffin, a Guinea-Pig......................................242 End of Camp Alamoosook (Harriet)....................................242 Bringing a Turtle Home..............................................243 Returning Turtle....................................................243 Growth (Harriet)....................................................244 The Graduate (Elizabeth)............................................244 Long Summer.........................................................245 No Hearing..........................................................245 No Hearing..........................................................246 Outlivers (Harriet and Elizabeth)...................................246 My Heavenly Shiner (Elizabeth)......................................247 It Did (Elizabeth)..................................................247 Seals...............................................................248 Obit................................................................248 FROM The Dolphin (1973) Fishnet.............................................................251 Window..............................................................251 The Serpent.........................................................252 Symptoms............................................................252 Voices..............................................................253 Old Snapshot from Venice 1952.......................................253 Fall Weekend at Milgate.............................................254 Records.............................................................255 Mermaid.............................................................256 In the Mail.........................................................258 Flounder............................................................258 Exorcism............................................................259 Plotted.............................................................259 The Couple..........................................................260 Artist's Model......................................................260 Mermaid Emerging....................................................261 Angling.............................................................261 Leaf-Lace Dress.....................................................262 Late Summer at Milgate..............................................262 Robert Sheridan Lowell..............................................263 Careless Night......................................................263 Wildrose............................................................264 Ivana...............................................................264 Lost Fish...........................................................265 Sick................................................................265 Plane-Ticket........................................................266 Christmas...........................................................266 Christmas...........................................................267 Dolphin.............................................................267 FROM Selected Poems (1976) NINETEEN THIRTIES First Things........................................................273 First Love..........................................................273 1930's..............................................................274 Searching...........................................................274 1930's..............................................................275 1930's..............................................................275 1930's..............................................................276 Bobby Delano........................................................276 1930's..............................................................277 Long Summers........................................................277 Long Summers........................................................278 Long Summers........................................................278 1930's..............................................................279 1930's..............................................................279 Anne Dick 1. 1936...................................................280 Anne Dick 2. 1936...................................................280 Father..............................................................281 Mother and Father 1.................................................281 Mother and Father 2.................................................282 Returning...........................................................282 Mother, 1972........................................................283 Father in a Dream...................................................283 To Daddy............................................................284 Will Not Come Back..................................................284 MEXICO Mexico (1, 3-10)....................................................287 Eight Months Later..................................................292 1. Eight Months Later...............................................292 2. Die Gold-Orangen.................................................292 FROM Day by Day (1977) Ulysses and Circe...................................................295 Our Afterlife I.....................................................302 For John Berryman...................................................304 Square of Black.....................................................306 In the Ward.........................................................308 Day by Day from Part I The Day.............................................................310 Domesday Book.......................................................311 Marriage............................................................314 from Part II Robert T. S. Lowell.................................................317 For Sheridan........................................................319 Grass Fires.........................................................320 St. Mark's, 1933....................................................322 Suburban Surf.......................................................324 from Part III Ten Minutes.........................................................326 Notice..............................................................328 Shifting Colors.....................................................329 Unwanted............................................................331 The Downlook........................................................335 Thanks-Offering for Recovery........................................337 Epilogue............................................................338 FROM Last Poems (1977) Summer Tides........................................................341 Notes...............................................................345 Chronology..........................................................407 Index of Titles.....................................................411 Index of First Lines................................................415

Chapter One

from

Lord Weary's Castle (1946)

The Exile's Return There mounts in squalls a sort of rusty mire, Not ice, not snow, to leaguer the Hôtel De Ville, where braced pig-iron dragons grip The blizzard to their rigor mortis. A bell Grumbles when the reverberations strip The thatching from its spire, The search-guns click and spit and split up timber And nick the slate roofs on the Holstenwall Where torn-up tilestones crown the victor. Fall And winter, spring and summer, guns unlimber And lumber down the narrow gabled street Past your gray, sorry and ancestral house Where the dynamited walnut tree Shadows a squat, old, wind-torn gate and cows The Yankee commandant. You will not see Strutting children or meet The peg-leg and reproachful chancellor With a forget-me-not in his button-hole When the unseasoned liberators roll Into the Market Square, ground arms before The Rathaus; but already lily-stands Burgeon the risen Rhineland, and a rough Cathedral lifts its eye. Pleasant enough, Voi ch'entrate, and your life is in your hands.

The Holy Innocents Listen, the hay-bells tinkle as the cart Wavers on rubber tires along the tar And cindered ice below the burlap mill And ale-wife run. The oxen drool and start In wonder at the fenders of a car, And blunder hugely up St. Peter's hill. These are the undefiled by woman-their Sorrow is not the sorrow of this world: King Herod shrieking vengeance at the curled Up knees of Jesus choking in the air, A king of speechless clods and infants. Still The world out-Herods Herod; and the year, The nineteen-hundred forty-fifth of grace, Lumbers with losses up the clinkered hill Of our purgation; and the oxen near The worn foundations of their resting-place, The holy manger where their bed is corn And holly torn for Christmas. If they die, As Jesus, in the harness, who will mourn? Lamb of the shepherds, Child, how still you lie. Colloquy in Black Rock Here the jack-hammer jabs into the ocean; My heart, you race and stagger and demand More blood-gangs for your nigger-brass percussions, Till I, the stunned machine of your devotion, Clanging upon this cymbal of a hand, Am rattled screw and footloose. All discussions End in the mud-flat detritus of death. My heart, beat faster, faster. In Black Mud Hungarian workmen give their blood For the martyre Stephen, who was stoned to death. Black Mud, a name to conjure with: O mud For watermelons gutted to the crust, Mud for the mole-tide harbor, mud for mouse, Mud for the armored Diesel fishing tubs that thud A year and a day to wind and tide; the dust Is on this skipping heart that shakes my house, House of our Savior who was hanged till death. My heart, beat faster, faster. In Black Mud Stephen the martyre was broken down to blood: Our ransom is the rubble of his death. Christ walks on the black water. In Black Mud Darts the kingfisher. On Corpus Christi, heart, Over the drum-beat of St. Stephen's choir I hear him, Stupor Mundi, and the mud Flies from his hunching wings and beak-my heart, The blue kingfisher dives on you in fire.

The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket (FOR WARREN WINSLOW, DEAD AT SEA) Let man have dominion over the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and the beasts and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. I.

A brackish reach of shoal off Madaket,- The sea was still breaking violently and night Had steamed into our North Atlantic Fleet, When the drowned sailor clutched the drag-net. Light Flashed from his matted head and marble feet, He grappled at the net With the coiled, hurdling muscles of his thighs: The corpse was bloodless, a botch of reds and whites, Its open, staring eyes Were lustreless dead-lights Or cabin-windows on a stranded hulk Heavy with sand. We weight the body, close Its eyes and heave it seaward whence it came, Where the heel-headed dogfish barks its nose On Ahab's void and forehead; and the name Is blocked in yellow chalk. Sailors, who pitch this portent at the sea Where dreadnaughts shall confess Its hell-bent deity, When you are powerless To sand-bag this Atlantic bulwark, faced By the earth-shaker, green, unwearied, chaste In his steel scales: ask for no Orphean lute To pluck life back. The guns of the steeled fleet Recoil and then repeat The hoarse salute. II.

Whenever winds are moving and their breath Heaves at the roped-in bulwarks of this pier, The terns and sea-gulls tremble at your death In these home waters. Sailor, can you hear The Pequod's sea wings, beating landward, fall Headlong and break on our Atlantic wall Off 'Sconset, where the yawing S-boats splash The bellbuoy, with ballooning spinnakers, As the entangled, screeching mainsheet clears The blocks: off Madaket, where lubbers lash The heavy surf and throw their long lead squids For blue-fish? Sea-gulls blink their heavy lids Seaward. The winds' wings beat upon the stones, Cousin, and scream for you and the claws rush At the sea's throat and wring it in the slush Of this old Quaker graveyard where the bones Cry out in the long night for the hurt beast Bobbing by Ahab's whaleboats in the East. III.

All you recovered from Poseidon died With you, my cousin, and the harrowed brine Is fruitless on the blue beard of the god, Stretching beyond us to the castles in Spain, Nantucket's westward haven. To Cape Cod Guns, cradled on the tide, Blast the eelgrass about a waterclock Of bilge and backwash, roll the salt and sand Lashing earth's scaffold, rock Our warships in the hand Of the great God, where time's contrition blues Whatever it was these Quaker sailors lost In the mad scramble of their lives. They died When time was open-eyed, Wooden and childish; only bones abide There, in the nowhere, where their boats were tossed Sky-high, where mariners had fabled news Of IS, the whited monster. What it cost Them is their secret. In the sperm-whale's slick I see the Quakers drown and hear their cry: "If God himself had not been on our side, If God himself had not been on our side, When the Atlantic rose against us, why, Then it had swallowed us up quick." IV.

This is the end of the whaleroad and the whale Who spewed Nantucket bones on the thrashed swell And stirred the troubled waters to whirlpools To send the Pequod packing off to hell: This is the end of them, three-quarters fools, Snatching at straws to sail Seaward and seaward on the turntail whale, Spouting out blood and water as it rolls, Sick as a dog to these Atlantic shoals: Clamavimus, O depths. Let the sea-gulls wail For water, for the deep where the high tide Mutters to its hurt self, mutters and ebbs. Waves wallow in their wash, go out and out, Leave only the death-rattle of the crabs, The beach increasing, its enormous snout Sucking the ocean's side. This is the end of running on the waves; We are poured out like water. Who will dance The mast-lashed master of Leviathans Up from this field of Quakers in their unstoned graves? V.

When the whale's viscera go and the roll Of its corruption overruns this world Beyond tree-swept Nantucket and Woods Hole And Martha's Vineyard, Sailor, will your sword 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. VI.

OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM There once the penitents took off their shoes And then walked barefoot the remaining mile; And the small trees, a stream and hedgerows file Slowly along the munching English lane, Like cows to the old shrine, until you lose Track of your dragging pain. The stream flows down under the druid tree, Shiloah's whirlpools gurgle and make glad The castle of God. Sailor, you were glad And whistled Sion by that stream. But see: Our Lady, too small for her canopy, Sits near the altar. There's no comeliness At all or charm in that expressionless Face with its heavy eyelids. As before, This face, for centuries a memory, Non est species, neque decor, Expressionless, expresses God: it goes Past castled Sion. She knows what God knows, Not Calvary's Cross nor crib at Bethlehem Now, and the world shall come to Walsingham. VII.

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, wing'd 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 blue-lung'd combers lumbered to the kill. The Lord survives the rainbow of His will.

In Memory of Arthur Winslow DEATH FROM CANCER This Easter, Arthur Window, less than dead, Your people set you up in Phillips House To settle off your wrestling with the crab- The claws drop flesh upon your yachting blouse Until longshoreman Charon come and stab Through your adjusted bed And crush the crab. On Boston Basin, shells Hit water by the Union Boat Club wharf: You ponder why the coxes' squeakings dwarf The resurrexit dominus of all the bells. Grandfather Window, look, the swanboats coast That island in the Public Gardens, where The bread-stuffed ducks are brooding, where with tub And strainer the mid-Sunday Irish scare The sun-struck shallows for the dusky chub This Easter, and the ghost Of risen Jesus walks the waves to run Arthur upon a trumpeting black swan Beyond Charles River to the Acheron Where the wide waters and their voyager are one. Mary Winslow Her Irish maids could never spoon out mush Or orange-juice enough; the body cools And smiles as a sick child Who adds up figures, and a hush Grips at the poised relations sipping sherry And tracking up the carpets of her four Room kingdom. On the rigid Charles, in snow, Charon, the Lubber, clambers from his wherry, And stops her hideous baby-squawks and yells, Wit's clownish afterthought. Nothing will go Again. Even the gelded picador Baiting the twinned runt bulls With walrus horns before the Spanish Belles Is veiled with all the childish bibelots. Mary Winslow is dead. Out on the Charles The shells hold water and their oarblades drag, Littered with captivated ducks, and now The bell-rope in King's Chapel Tower unsnarls And bells the bestial cow From Boston Common; she is dead. But stop, Neighbor, these pillows prop Her that her terrified and child's cold eyes Glass what they're not: our Copley ancestress, Grandiloquent, square-jowled and worldly-wise, A Cleopatra in her housewife's dress; Nothing will go again. The bells cry: "Come, Come home," the babbling Chapel belfry cries: "Come, Mary Window, come; I bell thee home." The Drunken Fisherman Wallowing in this bloody sty, I cast for fish that pleased my eye (Truly Jehovah's bow suspends No pots of gold to weight its ends); Only the blood-mouthed rainbow trout Rose to my bait. They flopped about My canvas creel until the moth Corrupted its unstable cloth. A calendar to tell the day; A handkerchief to wave away The gnats; a couch unstuffed with storm Pouching a bottle in one arm; A whiskey bottle full of worms; And bedroom slacks: are these fit terms To mete the worm whose molten rage Boils in the belly of old age? Once fishing was a rabbit's foot- O wind blow cold, O wind blow hot, Let suns stay in or suns step out: Life danced a jig on the sperm-whale's spout- The fisher's fluent and obscene Catches kept his conscience clean. Children, the raging memory drools Over the glory of past pools. Now the hot river, ebbing, hauls Its bloody waters into holes; A grain of sand inside my shoe Mimics the moon that might undo Man and Creation too; remorse, Stinking, has puddled up its source; Here tantrums thrash to a whale's rage. This is the pot-hole of old age. Is there no way to cast my hook Out of this dynamited brook? The Fisher's sons must cast about When shallow waters peter out. I will catch Christ with a greased worm, And when the Prince of Darkness stalks My bloodstream to its Stygian term ... On water the Man-Fisher walks.

Between the Porch and the Altar I. MOTHER AND SON Meeting his mother makes him lose ten years, Or is it twenty? Time, no doubt, has ears That listen to the swallowed serpent, wound Into its bowels, but he thinks no sound Is possible before her, he thinks the past Is settled. It is honest to hold fast Merely to what one sees with one's own eyes When the red velvet curves and haunches rise To blot him from the pretty driftwood fire's Façade of welcome. Then the son retires Into the sack and selfhood of the boy Who clawed through fallen houses of his Troy, Homely and human only when the flames Crackle in recollection. Nothing shames Him more than this uncoiling, counterfeit Body presented as an idol. It Is something in a circus, big as life, The painted dragon, a mother and a wife With flat glass eyes pushed at him on a stick; The human mover crawls to make them click. The forehead of her father's portrait peels With rosy dryness, and the schoolboy kneels To ask the benediction of the hand, Lifted as though to motion him to stand, Dangling its watch-chain on the Holy Book- A little golden snake that mouths a hook. II. ADAM AND EVE The Farmer sizzles on his shaft all day. He is content and centuries away From white-hot Concord, and he stands on guard. Or is he melting down like sculptured lard? His hand is crisp and steady on the plough. I quarrelled with you, but am happy now To while away my life for your unrest Of terror. Never to have lived is best; Man tasted Eve with death. I taste my wife And children while I hold your hands. I knife Their names into this elm. What is exempt? I eye the statue with an awed contempt And see the puritanical façade Of the white church that Irish exiles made For Patrick-that Colonial from Rome Had magicked the charmed serpents from their home, As though he were the Piper. Will his breath Scorch the red dragon of my nerves to death? By sundown we are on a shore. You walk A little way before me and I talk, Half to myself and half aloud. They lied, My cold-eyed seedy fathers when they died, Or rather threw their lives away, to fix Sterile, forbidding nameplates on the bricks Above a kettle. Jesus rest their souls! You cry for help. Your market-basket rolls With all its baking apples in the lake. You watch the whorish slither of a snake That chokes a duckling. When we try to kiss, Our eyes are slits and cringing, and we hiss; Scales glitter on our bodies as we fall. The Farmer melts upon his pedestal. III. KATHERINE'S DREAM It must have been a Friday. I could hear The top-floor typist's thunder and the beer That you had brought in cases hurt my head; I'd sent the pillows flying from my bed, I hugged my knees together and I gasped. The dangling telephone receiver rasped Like someone in a dream who cannot stop For breath or logic till his victim drop To darkness and the sheets. I must have slept, But still could hear my father who had kept Your guilty presents but cut off my hair. He whispers that tie really doesn't care If I am your kept woman all my life, Or ruin your two children and your wife; But my dishonor makes him drink. Of course I'll tell the court the truth for his divorce. I walk through snow into St. Patrick's yard. Black nuns with glasses smile and stand on guard Before a bulkhead in a bank of snow, Whose charred doors open, as good people go Inside by twos to the confessor. One Must have a friend to enter there, but none Is friendless in this crowd, and the nuns smile. I stand aside and marvel; for a while The winter sun is pleasant and it warms My heart with love for others, but the swarms Of penitents have dwindled. I begin To cry and ask God's pardon of our sin. Where are you? You were with me and are gone. All the forgiven couples hurry on To dinner and their nights, and none will stop. I run about in circles till I drop Against a padlocked bulkhead in a yard Where faces redden and the snow is hard. IV. AT THE ALTAR I sit at a gold table with my girl Whose eyelids burn with brandy. What a whirl Of Easter eggs is colored by the lights, As the Norwegian dancer's crystalled tights Flash with her naked leg's high-booted skate, Like Northern Lights upon my watching plate. The twinkling steel above me is a star; I am a fallen Christmas tree. Our car Races through seven red-lights-then the road Is unpatrolled and empty, and a load Of ply-wood with a tail-light makes us slow. I turn and whisper in her ear. You know I want to leave my mother and my wife, You wouldn't have me tied to them for life ... Time runs, the windshield runs with stars. The past Is cities from a train, until at last Its escalating and black-windowed blocks Recoil against a Gothic church. The clocks Are tolling. I am dying. The shocked stones Are falling like a ton of bricks and bones That snap and splinter and descend in glass Before a priest who mumbles through his Mass And sprinkles holy water; and the Day Breaks with its lightning on the man of clay, Dies amara valde. Here the Lord Is Lucifer in harness: hand on sword, He watches me for Mother, and will turn The bier and baby-carriage where I burn.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Selected Poems by Robert Lowell Copyright © 2006 by Harriet Lowell and Sheridan Lowell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Frank Bidart

From Lord Weary's Castle (1946)

The Exile's Return

The Holy Innocents

Colloquy in Black Rock

The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket

In Memory of Arthur Winslow (Death from Cancer)

Mary Winslow

The Drunken Fisherman

Between the Porch and the Altar

The Ghost

In the Cage

At the Indian Killer's Grave

Mr. Edwards and the Spider

After the Surprising Conversions

The Death of the Sheriff (Noli Me Tangere)

Where the Rainbow Ends

From The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951)

The Mills of the Kavanaughs

Falling Asleep over the Aeneid

Her Dead Brother " 41

Mother Marie Therese

The Fat Man in the Mirror

Thanksgiving's Over

Life Studies (1959)

Part One

Beyond the Alps

The Banker's Daughter

Inauguration Day: January 1953

Mad Negro Soldier Confined at Munich

Part Two

91 Revere Street

Part Three

Ford Madox Ford

For George Santayana

To Delmore Schwartz

Words for Hart

Part Four: LIFE STUDIES

I.

My Last Afternoon with Uncle Devereux Winslow

Dunbarton

Grandparents

Commander Lowell

Terminal Days at Beverly Farms

Father's Bedroom

For Sale

Sailing Home from Rapallo

During Fever

Waking in the Blue

Home After Three Months Away

II.

Memories of West Street and Lepke

Man and Wife

"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage"

Skunk Hour

From For the Union Dead (1964)

Water

The Old Flame

Middle Age

The Mouth of the Hudson

Fall 1961

Florence

Eye and Tooth

Alfred Corning Clark

Child's Song

The Public Garden

Going to and fro

Myopia: a Night

The Drinker

Hawthorne

Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts

Tenth Muse

The Neo-Classical Urn

Caligula

July in Washington

Buenos Aires

Soft Wood

New York 1962: Fragment

The Flaw

Night Sweat

For the Union Dead

From Near the Ocean (1967)

Near the Ocean

1. Waking Early Sunday Morning

2. Fourth of July in Maine "

3. The Opposite House

4. Central Park

5. Near the Ocean

From History (1973)

History

Man and Woman

Alexander

Death of Alexander

Hannibal I. Roman Disaster at the Trebia

Marcus Cato 234-149 B.C.

Marcus Cato 95-46 B.C.

Cicero, the Sacrificial Killing

Nunc est bibendum, Cleopatra's Death

Juvenal's Prayer

Attila, Hitler

Mohammed

Death of Count Roland

Joinville and Louis IX

Dante 3. Buonconte

Dames du Temps Jadis

Coleridge and Richard II

Bosworth Field

Sir Thomas More

Anne Boleyn

Death of Anne Boleyn

Charles V by Titian

Marlowe

Mary Smart

Rembrandt

The Worst Sinner, Jonathan Edwards' God

Watchmaker God

Robespierre and Mozart as Stage

Saint-Just 1767-93

Napoleon

Waterloo

Beethoven

Coleridge

The Lost Tune

Margaret Fuller Drowned

Abraham Lincoln

Verdun

Dream of Fair Ladies

Serpent

Words

Sunrise

Randall Jarrell I. October 1965

Randall Jarrell 2

Randall Jarrell 3

T. S. Eliot

Ezra Pound

William Carlos Williams

Robert Frost

Stalin

Caracas

The March I

The March 2

Worse Times

Ulysses

Fever

Two Walls

For Robert Kennedy 1925-68

For Eugene McCarthy

Publication Day

Lévi-Strauss in London

The Nihilist as Hero

Reading Myself

For Elizabeth Bishop 4

Death and the Bridge

Ice

End of a Year

From For Lizzie and Harriet (1973)

Part One

Harriet, born January 4,1957

Harriet

Elizabeth

These Winds (Harriet)

Harriet

Part Two

Snake

Christmas Tree

Dear Sorrow

Harriet's Dream

Left Out of Vacation

Das Ewig Weibliche

Our Twentieth Wedding Anniversary (Elizabeth)

The Hard Way (Harriet)

Words for Muffin, a Guinea-Pig

End of Camp Alamoosook (Harriet)

Bringing a Turtle Home

Returning Turtle

Growth (Harriet)

The Graduate (Elizabeth)

Long Summer

No Hearing

No Hearing

Outlivers (Harriet and Elizabeth)

My Heavenly Shiner (Elizabeth)

It Did (Elizabeth)

Seals

Obit

From The Dolphin (1973)

Fishnet

Window

The Serpent

Symptoms

Voices

3ld Snapshot from Venice 1952

Fall Weekend at Milgate

Mermaid

In the Mail

Flounder

Exorcism

Plotted

The Couple

Artist's Model

Mermaid Emerging

Angling

Leaf-Lace Dress

Late Summer at Milgate

Robert Sheridan Lowell

Careless Night

Wildrose

Ivana

Lost Fish

Sick

Plane-Ticket

Christmas

Christmas

Dolphin

From Selected Poems (1976)

NINETEEN THIRTIES

First Things

First Love

1930's

Searching

1930's

1930's

1930's

Bobby Delano

1930's

Long Summers

Long Summers

Long Summers

1930's

1930's

Anne Dick 1.1936

Anne Dick 2. 1936

Father

Mother and Father 1

Mother and Father 2

Returning

Mother, 1972

Father in a Dream

Tb Daddy

Will Not Come Back " 284

MEXICO

Mexico (1, 3-10)

Eight Months Later i. Eight Months Later " 292

2. Die Gold-Orangen " 292

From Day by Day (1977)

Ulysses and Circe

Our Afterlife 1

For John Berryman

Square of Black

In the Ward

DAY BY DAY

from Part I

The Day

Domesday Book

Marriage

from Part II

Robert T. S. Lowell

For Sheridan

Grass Fires

St. Mark's, 1933

Suburban Surf

from Part III

Ten Minutes

Notice

Shifting Colors

Unwanted

The Downlook

Thanks-Offering for Recovery

Epilogue

From Last Poems (1977)

Summer Tides

Notes

Chronology

Index of Titles

Index of First Lines

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Appetizer for the Main Course

    This is the perfect way to approach Lowell's work, far less daunting than the monumental 1,000-page Collected Poems. If you're like me, you'll eventually want to read 'em all, but you'll still want to keep this volume as a handy "road" version, because the Collected is decidedly un-portable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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