Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LANDSCAPES (FOR CLEMENT R. WOOD), by LOUIS UNTERMEYER



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LANDSCAPES (FOR CLEMENT R. WOOD), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The rain was over, and the brilliant air
Last Line: Good god, and what is all this beauty for?
Alternate Author Name(s): Lewis, Michael
Variant Title(s): Landscapes
Subject(s): Beauty; God; Nature - Religious Aspects; Vision; Willow Trees


The rain was over, and the brilliant air
Made every little blade of grass appear
Vivid and startling — everything was there
With sharpened outlines, eloquently clear,
As though one saw it in a crystal sphere.
The rusty sumac with its struggling spires;
The golden-rod with all its million fires;
(A million torches swinging in the wind)
A single poplar, marvellously thinned,
Half like a naked boy, half like a sword;
Clouds, like the haughty banners of the Lord;
A group of pansies with their shrewish faces
Little old ladies cackling over laces;
The quaint, unhurried road that curved so well;
The prim petunias with their rich, rank smell;
The lettuce-birds, the creepers in the field —
How bountifully were they all revealed!
How arrogantly each one seemed to thrive —
So frank and strong, so radiantly alive!

And over all the morning-minded earth
There seemed to spread a sharp and kindling mirth,
Piercing the stubborn stones until I saw
The toad face heaven without shame or awe,
The ant confront the stars, and every weed
Grow proud as though it bore a royal seed;
While all the things that die and decompose
Sent forth their bloom as richly as the rose . . .
Oh, what a liberal power that made them thrive
And keep the very dirt that died, alive.

And now I saw the slender willow-tree
No longer calm and drooping listlessly,
Letting its languid branches sway and fall
As though it danced in some sad ritual;
But rather like a young, athletic girl,
Fearless and gay, her hair all out of curl,
And flying in the wind — her head thrown back,
Her arms flung up, her garments flowing slack,
And all her rushing spirits running over . . .
What made a sober tree seem such a rover —
Or made the staid and stalwart apple-trees,
That stood for years knee-deep in velvet peace,
Turn all their fruit to little worlds of flame,
And burn the trembling orchard there below.
What lit the heart of every golden-glow —
Oh, why was nothing weary, dull or tame? . .
Beauty it was, and keen, compassionate mirth
That drives the vast and energetic earth.

And, with abrupt and visionary eyes,
I saw the huddled tenements arise.
Here where the merry clover danced and shone
Sprang agonies of iron and of stone;
There, where the green Silence laughed or stood enthralled,
Cheap music blared and evil alleys sprawled.
The roaring avenues, the shrieking mills;
Brothels and prisons on those kindly hills —
The menace of these things swept over me;
A threatening, unconquerable sea. . .

A stirring landscape and a generous earth!
Freshening courage and benevolent mirth —
And then the city, like a hideous sore. . .
Good God, and what is all this beauty for?





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