Marianne Moore: Selected Poetry.

The Poet

The Frigate Pelican (1934)

Rapidly cruising or lying on the air there is a bird
  that realizes Rasselas's friend's project
  of wings uniting levity with strength. This
    hell-diver, frigate-bird, hurricane-
bird, unless swift is the proper word
    for him, the storm omen when
  he flies close to the waves, should be seen
    fishing, although oftener
    he appears to prefer

to take, on the wing, from industrious crude-winged species,
  the fish they have caught, and is seldom successless.
  A marvel of grace, no matter how fast his
    victim may fly or how often may
turn. The other with similar ease,
  slowly rising once more,
    move out of the top
    of the circle and stop

and blow back, allowing the wind to reverse their direction——
  unlike the more stalwart swan that can ferry the
  woodcutter's two children home. Make hay; keep
    the shop; I have one sheep; were a less
limber animal's mottoes. This one
  finds sticks for the swan's-down-dress
  of his child to rest upon and would
    not know Gretel from Hänsel.
    As impassioned Handel——

meant for a lawyer and a masculine German domestic
  career——clandestinely studied the harpischord
  and never was known to have fallen in love,
    the unconfiding frigate-bird hides
in the height and in the majestic
  display of his art. He glides
  a hundred feet or quivers about
    as charred paper behaves——full
    of feints; and an eagle

of vigilance...Festina lente. Be gay
  civilly? How so? "If I do well I am blessed
  whether any bless me or not, and if I do
    ill I am cursed." We watch the moon rise
on the Susquehanna. In his way,
  this most romantic bird flies
to a more mundane place, the mangrove
    swamp to sleep. He wastes the moon.
    But he, and others, soon

rise from the bough and though flying, are able to foil the tired
  moment of danger that lays on heart and lungs the 
  weight of the python that crushes to powder.

Camellia Sabina (1935)

  and the Bordeaux plum
from Marmande (France) in parenthesis with
A.G. on the base of the jar——Alexis Godilot——
unevenly blown beside a bubble that
is green when held up to the light; they
are a fine duet; the screw-top
  for this graft-grown briar-black bloom
on black-thorn pigeon's-blood,
  is, like Certosa, sealed with foil. Appropriate custom.

  And they keep under
glass also, camellias catalogued by 
lines across the leaf. The French are a cruel race——willing
to squeeze the diner's cucumber or broil a
meal on wine-shoot. Gloria mundi
with a leaf two inches, nine lines
  broad, they have; and the smaller,
Camellia Sabina
  with amanita-white petals; there are several of her

  pale pinwheels, and pale
stripe that looks as if on a mushroom the
sliver from a beet-root carved into a rose were laid. "Dry
the windows with a cloth fastened to a staff.
In the camellia-house there must be
no smoke from the stove, or dew on
  the windows, lest the plants ail,"
the amateur is told;
  "mistakes are irreparable and nothing will avail."

  A scentless nosegay
is thus formed in the midst of the bouquet
from bottles, casks and corks, for sixty-four million red wines
and twenty million white, which Bordeaux merchants
and lawyers "have spent a great deal of
trouble" to select, from what was
  and what was not Bordeaux. A
food-grape, however——"born
  of nature and of art"——is true ground for the grape-holiday.

  The food of a wild
mouse in some countries is wild parsnip- or sunflower- or
morning-glory-seed, with an occasional
grape. Underneath the vines of the Bolzano
grape of Italy, the prince of Tails
might stroll. Does yonder mouse with a
  grape in its hand and it child
in its mouth not portray
  the Spanish fleece suspended by the neck? In that well-plied

  larder above your
head, the picture of what you will eat is
looked at from the end of the avenue. The wire cage is
locked, but by bending down and studying the 
roof, it is possible to see the
pantomime of Persian though: the
  gilded, too tight undemure
coat of gems unruined
  by the rain——each small pebble of jade that refused to mature,

  plucked delicately
off. Off jewelry not meant to keep Tom
Thumb, the cavalry cadet, on his Italian upland
meadow-mouse, from looking at the grapes beneath
the interrupted light from them, and
dashing round the concours hippique
  of the tent, in flurry 
of eels, scallops, serpents,
  and other shadows from the blue of the green canopy.

  The wine-cellar? No.
It accomplishes nothing and makes the 
soul heavy. The gleaning is more than the vintage, though the
history de la Vigne et du Vin has placed
mirabelle in the bibliothèque
unique depuis seventeen-ninety-seven.
  (Close the window,
says the Abbé Berlèse,
  for Sabina born under glass.) O generous Bolzano!

Virginia Britannia (1935)

  Pale sand edges England's Old
  Dominion. The air is soft, warm, hot
above the cedar-dotted emerald shore
  known to the red-bird, the red-coated musketeer,
  the trumpet-flower, the cavalier,
  the parson, and the wild parishioner. A deer-
track in a church-floor
  brick, and a fine pavement tomb with engraved top, remain.
  The now tremendous vine-encompassed hackberry,
    starred with the ivy-flower,
    shades the tall tower;
And a great sinner lyeth here under the sycamore.

  A fritillary zigzags
  toward the chancel-shaded resting-place
of this unusual man and sinner who
  waits for a joyful resurrenction. We-re-wo-
  co-mo-co's fur crown could be no 
  odder than we were, with ostrich, Latin motto,
and small gold horse-shoe:
  arms for an able sting-ray hampered pioneer——
  painted as a Turk, it seems——continuously
    exciting Captain Smith
    who, patient with
his inferiors, was a pugnacious equal, and to

  Powhatan as unflattering
  as grateful. Rare Indian, crowned by
Christopher Newport! THe Old Dominion has
    all-green box-sculptured grounds.
    An almost English green surrounds
    them. Care has formed among un-English insect sounds,
the white wall-rose. As
  thick as Daniel Boone's grape-vine, the stem has wide-spaced great
  blunt alternating ostrich-skin warts that were thorns.
    Care has formed walls of yew
    since Indians knew
the Fort Old Field and narrow tongue of land that Jamestown was.

  Observe the terse Virginian,
  the mettlesome gray one that drives the
owl from tree to tree and imitates the call
    of whippoorwill or lark or katydid——the lead-
    gray lead-legged mocking-bird with head
    held half away, and meditative eye as dead
as sculptured marble
  eye, alighting noiseless, musing in the semi-sun,
  standing on tall thin legs as if he did not see,
    conspicuous, alone,
    on the stone-
topped table with lead cupids grouped to the form the pedestal.

  Narrow herring-bone-laid bricks,
  a dusty pink beside the dwarf box-
bordered pansies, share the ivy-arbor shade
    with cemetery lace settees, one at each side,
    and with the bird: box-bordered tide-
    water gigantic jet black pansies——splendor; pride——
not for a decade
  dressed, but for a day, in over-powering velvet; and
  gray-blue Andalusian-cock-feather pale ones,
    ink-lined on the edge, fur-
    eyed, with ochre
on the cheek. The at first low, saddle-horse quick cavalcade

  of buckeye-burnished jumpers
  and five-gaited mounts, the work-mule and
show-mule and witch-cross door and "strong sweet prison"
    are a part of what has come about——in the Black
    idiom——from "advancin' back-
    wards in a circle"; from taking the Potomac
cowbirdlike, and on
  the Chickahominy establishing the Negro,
  inadvertent ally and bes enemy of
    tyranny. Rare unscent-
    ed, provident-
ly hot, too sweet, inconsistent flower-bed! Old Dominion

  flowers are curious. Some wilt
  in daytime and some close at night. Some
have perfume; some have not. The scarlet much-quilled
    fruiting pomegranate, the African violet,
    fuchsia and camellia, none, yet
    the house-high glistening green magnolia's velvet-
textured flower is filled
  with anesthetic scent as inconsiderate as
  the gardenia's. Even the gardenia-spring's
    dark vein on greener
    leaf when seen
against the light, has not near it more small bees than the frilled

  silk substanceless faint flower of
  the crape-myrtle has. Odd Pamunkey
princess, birdclaw-ear-ringed; with a pet raccoon
    from the Mattaponi (what a bear!). Feminine
    odd Indian young lady! Odd thin-
    gauze-and-taffeta-dressed English one! Terrapin
meat and crested spoon
  feed the mistress of French plum-and-turquoise-piped 
  of brass-knobbed slat front door, and everywhere open
    shaded house on Indian-
    named Virginian
streams in counties named for English lords. The rattlesnake soon

  said from our once dashingly
  undifferent first flag, "Don't tread on
me"——tactless symbol of a new republic.
    Priorities were cradled in this region not
    noted for humility; spot
    that has high-singing frogs, cotton-mouth snakes and cot-
ton fields; a unique
  Lawrence pottery with loping wolf design; and too
  unvenomous terrapin in tepid greenness,
    idling near the sea-top;
records on church walls; a Devil's Woodyard; and the one-brick

  thick serpentine wall built by
  Jefferson. Like strangler figs choking
a banyan, not an explorer, no imperialist,
    not one of us, in taking what we
    pleased——in colonizing as the
    saying is——has been a synonym for mercy.
The redskin with the deer-
  fur crown, famous for his cruelty, is not all brawn
  and animality. THe outdoor tea-table,
    the mandolin-shaped big 
    and little fig,
the silkworm-mulberry, the French mull dress with the Madeira-

  vine-accompanied edge are,
  when compared with what the colonists
found here in tidewater Virginia, stark
    luxuries. The mere brown hedge-sparrow, with reckless
    ardor, unable to surpress
    his satisfaction in man's trustworthy nearness,
even in the dark
  flutes his ecstatic burst of joy——the caraway seed-
  spotted sparrow perched in the dew-drenched juniper
    beside the window-ledge;
    this little hedge-
sparrow that wakes up seven minutes sooner than the lark.

  The live oak's darkening filigree
  of undulating boughs, the etched
solidity of a cypress indivisible
    from the now agèd English hackberry,
    become with lost identity,
    part of the ground, as sunset flames increasingly
against the leaf-chiseled
  blackening ridge of green; while clouds expanding above
  the town's assertiveness, dwarf it, dwarf arrogance
    that can misunderstand
    importance; and
are to the child an intimation of what glory is.

The Pangolin (1936)

Another armored animal——scale
    lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
   tail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equipped
the night miniature artist engineer is,
       yes, Leonardo da Vinci's replica——
         impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
       Armor seems extra. But for him,
         the closing ear-ridge——
           or bare ear lacking even this small
           eminence and similarly safe

contracting nose and eye apertures
    impenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater,
not cockroach eater, who endures
  exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night,
  returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight,
      on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside
        edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the claws
      for digging. Serpentined about
         the tree, he draws
           away from danger unpugnaciously,
           with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping

the fragile grace of the Thomas-
       of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or
rolls himself into a ball that has
   power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat
   head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in-feet.
          Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest
           of rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thus
          Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast
            each with a splendor
               which man in all his vileness cannot
            set aside; each with an excellence!

"Fearfull yet to be feared," the armored
    ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but
engulfs what he can, the flattened sword-
  edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-plates
  quivering violently when it retaliates
      and swarms on him. Compact like the furled fringed frill
        on the hat-brim of Gargallo's hollow iron head of a
      matador, he will drop and will
       then walk away
        unhurt, although if unintruded on,
         he cautiously works down the tree, helped

by his tail. The giant-pangolin-
    tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like
an elephant's trunkwith special skin,
  is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurable
  artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable
       whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done
        so. Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between
       dusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-like
          form and frictionless creep of a thing
           made graceful by adversities, con-

versities. To explain grace requires
     a curious hand. If that which is at all were not forever,
why would those who graced the spires
  with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious
  low stone seats——a monk and monk and monk——between 
				the thus
      ingenious roof supports, have slaved to confuse
         grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt,
      the cure for sins, a graceful use
       of what are yet
          approved stone mullions branching out across
          the perpendiculars? A sailboat

was the first machine. Pangolins, made
    for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade,
  with certain postures of a man. Beneath sun and moon, man slaving
  to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having,
      needing to choose wisely how to use his strength;
        a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
      like the ant; spidering a length
         of web from bluffs
            above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
            like the pangolin; capsizing in

disheartenment. Bedizened or stark
     naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
masters to this world, griffons a dark
 "Like does not like like that is abnoxious"; and writes error 
			with four
   r's. Among animals, one has sense of humor.
         Humor saves a few steps, it saves years. Unignorant,
         modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
         he has everlasting vigor,
           power to grow,
           though there are few creatures who can make one
            breathe faster and make one erecter.

 Not afraid of anything is he,
     and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle
at every step. Consistent with the
   formula——warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs——
   is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat,
         serge-clad, strong-shod. The prey of fear, he, always
           curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly
        says to the alternating blaze,
           "Again the sun!
              anew each day; and new and new and new,
              that comes into and steadies my soul."

What Are Years (1940)

  What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
  naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt,——
dumbly calling, deafly listening——that
in misfortune, even death,
  encourages others
  and in its defeat, stirs

  the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
  accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
  in its surrendering
  finds its continuing.

  So he who strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
  grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
  This is mortality,
  this is eternity.

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