Elinor Wylie (1885-1928)


Confession of Faith

I lack the braver mind That dares to find The lover friend, and kind. I fear him to the bone; I lie alone By the beloved one, And, breathless for suspense, Erect defense Against love's violence Whose silences portend A bloody end For lover never friend. But, in default of faith, In futile breath, I dream no ill of Death.

Now Let No Charitable Hope

Now let no charitable hope Confuse my mind with images Of eagle and of antelope; I am in nature none of these. I was, being human, born alone; I am, being woman, hard beset; I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get. In masks outrageous and austere The years go by in single file; But none has merited my fear, And none has quite escaped my smile.

Puritan Sonnet

Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones There's something in this richness that I hate. I love the look , austere, immaculate, Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones. There's something in my very blood that owns Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate, A thread of water, churned to milky spate Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones. I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray. Those fields, sparse planted, rendering meager sheaves; That spring, briefer than the apple-blossom's breath, Summer, so much too beautiful to stay, Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves, And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.

The Eagle and the Mole

Avoid the reeking herd, Shun the polluted flock, Live like that stoic bird, The eagle of the rock. The huddled warmth of crowds Begets and fosters hate; He keeps, above the clouds, His cliff inviolate. When flocks are folded warm, And herds to shelter run, He sails above the storm, He stares into the sun. If in the eagle's track Your sinews cannot leap, Avoid the lathered pack, Turn from the steaming sheep. If you would keep your soul From spotted light or sound, Live like the velvet mole; Go burrow underground. And there hold intercourse With roots of trees and stones, With rivers at their source, And disembodied bones.

Pretty Words

Poets make pets of pretty, docile words: I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish Which circle slowly with a silken swish, And tender ones, like downy-feathred birds: Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds, Come to my hand, and playful if I wish, Or purring softly at a silver dish, Blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds. I love bright words, words up and singing early; Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing; Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees; I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly, Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees, Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

Now Let No Charitable Hope

Now let no charitable hope Confuse my mind with images Of eagle and of antelope: I am by nature none of these. I was, being human, born alone; I am, being woman, hard beset; I live by squeezing from a stone What little nourishment I get. In masks outrageous and austere The years go by in single file; But none has merited my fear, And none has quite escaped my smile.

The Little Clock

Half-past-four and the first bird waking, Falling on my heart like a thin green leaf. If you are alive, your heart is breaking, If you are dead, you are done with grief. Half-past-five and the birds singing sweetly, World washed silver with the rain and the wind. If you are a saint, you have lived discreetly, If you are a sinner, you have surely sinned. Half-past-seven and the birds singing madly; Sun flames up in the sky like a lark, If there are things to remember sadly, Wait and remember them after dark.

To Elinor Wylie: Sonnet in Answer to a Question

by Edna St. Vincent Millay Oh, she was beautiful in every part! The auburn hair that bound the subtle brain; The lovely mouth cut clear by wit and pain, Uttering oaths and nonsense, uttering art In casual speech and curving at the smart On startled ears of excellence too plain For early morning! --- Obit. Death from strain; The soaring mind outstripped the tethered heart. Yet here was one who had no need to die To be remembered. Every word she said, The lively malice of the hazel eye Scanning the thumb-nail close --- oh, dazzling dead, How like a comet through the darkening sky You raced! . . . would your return were heralded. A fine biographical sketch of Elinor Wylie may be found at: http://www.magiclink.com/web/lostheroines/webdoc4.htm