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Who was Amy Lowell? For the very few that do remember her, regard her as an obese, homosexual, and lonely, unmarried woman that enjoyed smoking cigars and wearing men’s shirts. However, we overlook the fact that she is well-known for bringing the Imagist movement to the United States and that she is solely responsible for the creation of the polyphonic prose. Also, no one discusses how she a broke free from society’s standards of what a young woman should be – Brought up in a prestigious, affluent household, she was taught how to be a young lady. Being a Lowell daughter, she would then be married off at the age of seventeen, but no marriage proposal arrived for her that year. Since she had no right to an education, it was then that this seventeen-year-old girl began to educate herself by immersing herself in her father’s 17,000-volume library, where she discovered poet John Keats. From within the constraints of society, Lowell was able to break away and discover her true self. She once said: “For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.” Amy Lowell lived by this very idea. Her books and her poetry are what gave her life and meaning. Through such, Lowell delved herself into the depths of nature and emotion as her key subjects when writing poetry.
One specific quality of Lowell’s poetry was that she used sharp, clear language along with vivid imagery to make a statement. She saw no need in inserting vague and ambiguous references. To her the best poetry was that which flowed by itself as in everyday language. There was no need to abide by the limitations that certain types of poetry brought about, such as Italian sonnets with their a-b-b-a format. Lowell is able to portray this very thought process beautifully in “Lilacs”, which is one of the best representations of imagist poetry. The overall poem has no hidden or deeper meaning to it and in fact, can be taken completely literally, which is one of the reasons it holds so strong among other imagist poetry. The poem begins with “Lilacs,/ False Blue,/ White,/ Purple,/ Color of Lilac,” which Lowell continues to repeat at the beginning of stanzas 2 and 4 as well. This repetition of the subject, allows the reader to refocus on the true topic of the poem. At the same time, Lowell in the first stanza uses apostrophe to speak directly to the lilacs, referring to them as “you”. The speaker continues to state that the lilacs “are everywhere in this New England”, “watching a deserted house”, as well as “settling sideways into the grass of an old road” (21, 17, 18). Slowly, Lowell begins to focus less and less on the physical characteristics of the lilacs, but more so on what they are physically doing and what they are capable of doing, personifying the lilacs in the process. The lilacs are now standing “by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,” “persuad[ing] the housewife that her dishpan was of silver”, and “flaunt[ing] the fragrance of [its] blossoms” (28, 29, 31). Through these acts, the reader quickly sees the lilacs as benefiting the things and people around them. Finally towards the
Put in conclusion: For the rest though, she continues to be just another poet lost in the depths of history.
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.
Color of lilac,
You have forgotten your Eastern origin,
The veiled women with eyes like panthers,
The swollen, aggressive turbans of jeweled pashas.
Now you are a very decent flower,
A reticent flower,
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.
Maine knows you,
Has for years and years;
New Hampshire knows you,
Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island;
Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea.
You are brighter than apples,
Sweeter than tulips,
You are the great flood of our souls
Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,
You are the smell of all Summers,
The love of wives and children,
The recollection of gardens of little children,
You are State Houses and Charters
And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows.
May is lilac here in New England,
May is a thrush singing “Sun up!” on a tip-top ash tree,
May is white clouds behind pine-trees
Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky.
May is a green as no other,
May is much sun through small leaves,
May is soft earth,
And windows open to a South Wind.
May is full light wind of lilac
From Canada to Narragansett Bay.
Color of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilac in me because I am New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.
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