Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MARINE, by EDITH SITWELL



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MARINE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Pink faces (worlds or flowers or seas or stars)
Last Line: Disturb the general somnolence.
Subject(s): Fireworks; Music & Musicians


1.—FIREWORKS

PINK faces—(worlds or flowers or seas or stars),
You all alike are patterned with hot bars

Of coloured light; and falling where I stand,
The sharp and rainbow splinters from the band

Seem fireworks, splinters of the Infinite—
(Glitter of leaves the echoes). And the night

Will weld this dust of bright Infinity
To forms that we may touch and call and see:

Pink pyramids of faces: tulip-trees
Spilling night-perfumes on the terraces.

The music, blond airs waving like a sea
Draws in its vortex of immensity

The new-awakened flower-strange hair and eyes
Of crowds beneath the floating summer skies.

And, 'gainst the silk pavilions of the sea
I watch the people move incessantly

Vibrating, petals blown from flower-hued stars
Beneath the music-fireworks' waving bars;

So all seems indivisible, at one:
The flow of hair, the flowers, the seas that run,—

A coloured floating music of the night
Through the pavilions of the Infinite.

2.—MINSTRELS

BESIDE the sea, metallic bright
And sequined with the noisy light,
Duennas slowly promenade
Each like a patch of sudden shade,

While colours like a parokeet
Shrill loudly to the chattering heat;
And gowns as white as innocence
With sudden sweetness take the sense.

Those crested paladins the waves
Are sighing to their tawny slaves
The sands, where, orange-turban'd stand—
Opaque black gems—the negro band!

While in the purring greenery
The crowd moves like a tropic sea—
The people, sparkles from the heat
That dies from ennui at our feet.

The instruments that snore like flies
Seem mourners at Time's obsequies.
The sun, a pulse's beat, inflates
And with the band coagulates:

"A thousand years seem but a day—
Time waits for no man, yet he'll stay
Bewildered when we cross this bar
Into the Unknown—there we are!

Eternity and Time commence
To merge amid the somnolence
Of winding circles, bend on bend,
With no beginning and no end,

Down which they chase queer tunes that gape
Till they come close,—then just escape!
But though Time's barriers are defied
They never seem quite satisfied.

The crowds, bright sparks struck out by Time,
Pass, touch each other, never chime:
Each soul a separate entity—
Some past, some present, some to be:

But now, an empty blot of white,
Beneath the senseless shocks of light
Flashed by the tunes that cannot thrill
The nerves. Oh! Time is hard to kill!

3.—PEDAGOGUES

THE air is like a jarring bell
That jangles words it cannot spell,
And black as Fate, the iron trees
Stretch thirstily to catch the breeze.

The fat leaves pat the shrinking air;
The hot sun's patronizing stare
Rouses the stout flies from content
To some small show of sentiment.

Beneath the terrace shines the green
Metallic strip of sea, and sheen
Of sands, where folk flaunt parrot-bright
With rags and tags of noisy light.

The brass band's snorting stabs the sky
And tears the yielding vacancy—
The imbecile and smiling blue
Until fresh meaning trickles through;

And slowly we perambulate
With spectacles that concentrate,
In one short hour, Eternity,
In one small lens, Infinity.

With children, our primeval curse,
We overrun the universe—
Beneath the giddy lights of noon,
White as a tired August moon.

The air is like a jarring bell
That jangles words it cannot spell,
And black as Fate, the iron trees
Stretch thirstily to catch the breeze.

4.—SWITCHBACK

BY the blue wooden sea,
Curling laboriously,
Coral and amber grots
(Cherries and apricots),
Ribbons of noisy heat,
Binding them head and feet,
Horses as fat as plums
Snort as each bumpkin comes:
Giggles like towers of glass
(Pink and blue spirals) pass;
Oh, how the Vacancy
Laughed at them rushing by!
"Turn again, flesh and brain,
Only yourselves again!
How far above the Ape,
Differing in each shape,
You with your regular,
Meaningless circles are!"

5.—MYSELF ON THE MERRY-GO-ROUND

THE giddy sun's kaleidoscope,
The pivot of a switchback world,
Is tied to it by many a rope:
The people (flaunting streamers), furled
Metallic banners of the seas,
The giddy sun's kaleidoscope
Casts colours on the face of these:
Cosmetics of Eternity,
And powders faces blue as death;
Beneath the parasols we see
Gilt faces tarnished by sea-breath,
And crawling like the foam, each horse
Beside the silken tents of sea
In whirlpool circles takes his course.
Huge houses, humped like camels, chase
The wooden horses' ceaseless bound;
The throbbing whirring sun that drags
The streets upon its noisy round
With tramways chasing them in vain,
Projects in coloured cubes each face—
Then shatters them upon our brain.
The house-fronts hurl them back, they jar
Upon cross-currents of the noise:
Like atoms of my soul they are,
They shake my body's equipoise,—
A clothes line for the Muse to fly
(So thin and jarred and angular)
Her rags of tattered finery.
Beneath the heat the trees' sharp hue—
A ceaseless whirr, metallic-green—
Sounds like a gimlet shrilling through
The mind, to reach the dazzling sheen
Of meanings life can not decide:
Then words set all awry, and you
Are left upon the other side.
Our senses, each a wooden horse,
We paint till they appear to us
Like life, and then queer-strangers course
In our place on each Pegasus.
The very heat seems but to be
The product of some man-made force—
Steam from the band's machinery.
The heat is in a thousand rags
Reverberant with sound, whose dry
Frayed ends we never catch, seem tags
Of our unfinished entity;
And like a stretched accordion
The houses throb with heat, and flags
Of smoke are tunes light plays upon.
The band's kaleidoscopic whirr
Tears up those jarring threads of heat,
The crowds: plush mantles seem to purr;
Crustacean silk gowns take the beat
From houses; each reverberates
With this vitality and stir
The giddy heat acerberates.
And in the swirling restaurant
Where liqueurs at perpetual feud
Dispute for sequined lights and taunt
Hot leaves, our dusty souls exude
Their sentiments, while scraps of sense
Float inward from the band and flaunt—
Disturb the general somnolence.





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