Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MIRANDA'S SUPPER (VIRGINIA, 1866), by ELINOR WYLIE



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MIRANDA'S SUPPER (VIRGINIA, 1866), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Between the solemn portico's
Last Line: Nothing is lost! Nothing is lost!
Alternate Author Name(s): Benet, William Rose, Mrs.
Subject(s): American Civil War; United States - History


Between the solemn portico's
Column and column the lady goes;
Between the proud and painted stalks,
Plucked from Corinth, Miranda walks;
Pale, elegant, at point to vanish;
Her shoes are French, her shawl is Spanish;
Her silk in pure Manchurian rustles;
Three novices went blind at Brussels
To weave the enigma of her scarf;
Her lawns amazed the India Wharf
With webbed enchantment like a witch's
Before they flew in feather-stitches
To flounce her meanest petticoat.
A pair of cameos clasp her throat,
Wherein Psyche, pink and cream,
Slim-handed slants the candle-beam
On Cupid, swooning in carnelian;
Such trifles are antique Italian.

Miranda is a gentlewoman:
She met the invader as a Roman
Who scorns, above the screaming battle, a
Vercingetorix or Attila.
Fair-haired barbarian hordes disperse
Without the comment of a curse
From bitten lips like beads of coral;
She never made her anger oral.
She remained a marble memory
To the Cambridge Captain Amory,
She used him like a prince's legate,
But Oh, her eyes -- her eyes were agate!
His mild and courteous Platonics
Shattered on flesh as firm as onyx;
She taught the boy to know his betters:
He saw the crown and heard the fetters.

Between the peony and rose,
Slim and sallow Miranda goes;
In light that's neither gold nor lunar,
This one later, and that one sooner;
Between the yellow and silver both,
Between the swallow and the moth,
Between the heavy walls of box.
Seven! Seven! cry all the clocks;
Five old clocks that chime in chorus,
One the gift of the Grand Duke Boris,
Malachite, with Peter in bronze
Setting his horse at the Persian guns;
The clock with a print of the Flying Castle;
The singing-bird clock that came from Basel;
Bonaparte's clock, with the bees worn shabby;
And the clock with the voice of an English Abbey.
Five aristocrats, gilt and argent,
Wound at the word of a raw top sergeant;
Wound by the paw of a brutal sentry,
To toll the obsequies of gentry,
In that Palladian temple standing
Empty over Peacock's Landing.

Between the box and the brier stalks
Pensively Miranda walks;
The mingled scent is cool and acrid;
Conventual evening is sacred.
Night invests its vistas slowly, as
Moonlight blooms on the magnolias
Whose cups contain the Holy Ghost;
Nothing is lost! Nothing is lost!

The evening is an ardent chapel,
A garden fenced with flowering apple;
Every flower enfolds a candle
Impregnate with the breath of sandal
And ambergis; a chamber arrased
With prayer, where peace lies unembarrassed;
Lies asleep, and does not move
Under the arching orchard grove.
Nothing is lost, nothing is murdered;
All is safe, and softly ordered.
Miranda kneels upon the grass;
The ruffles of her taffetas
Crackle and speak; the sound is crisper
Than her voice subdued to whisper.
The evening's vault is a cathedral;
Kneel and pray; forget the Federal!
Forget the foul receding fever;
Peace is immaculate as ever,
And seven thousand lovely acres
Once more Miranda's and her Maker's:
Edens relinquished one by one.

Miranda rises and goes on
To where upon a wooded crest a
Temple dedicate to Vesta --
Roman-Greek, a little bastard,
Pillars not of stone, but plastered --
Lends a look Hellenic-Latin
To a lawn like sea-green satin;
A structure, elegant and airy,
They call the thing a belvedere.
Why does Miranda stand and shiver?
Here is Phoebe, with her quiver
Furred by moss, and here's Apollo;
But the summer-house is hollow,
Hollow are the negroes' quarters,
And far away, across the parterres,
The mansion hangs on a hill's summit,
Hollowness resounding from it;
Streaming from it like a pennant;
Desolation is its tenant.
Harps and horns and windy whistles
Overflow the empty vessels.
Where are all the souls that filled them?
Who has killed them? Who has killed them?

For a moment's space the lady
Feels her pulse's beat unsteady,
Hammering and helter-skelter;
But her heart is safe in shelter,
Willow-vaulted, verdant-pastured,
Secure in silver mail envestured.

Miranda buckles on her courage.
Nevermore the beast shall forage,
Rooting with its bloody tushes
Among the rose and lilac bushes;
Trampling with devil-hooves of iron
The velvet gardens that environ,
Calm, austere, aloof, commanding,
The pillars and roofs of Peacock's Landing.

Miranda steps across the lawn
More precisely than a fawn
That shakes the dew from delicate ankles;
Nothing is wounded, nothing rankles,
Nothing is wicked, nothing whispers;
All is safe as a church at vespers,
On Christmas eve, when the bells cry Nowell!
Miranda takes her garden trowel;
She stoops, she kneels, she digs in the ground.
What is the thing that her hands have found?
Is it horror, or beautiful?
Is it a mandrake, is it a skull?
Is it a crucifix, is it a pistol?
The thing is a cup of Chinese Bristol.
Pure in color, correct in shape,
Bright as embroidered Canton crape;
Mongol faces, demure and pale,
Small as Miranda's finger-nail;
Almond eyes, impertinent, tilted,
Flowers of April suavely melted;
This is a cup to hold infusions
Of caravan tea reserved for Russians
Or brewed for the throat of a thirsty Manchu;
This is a charming cup, I grant you;
Better by far than the willow patterns
That make a lady's soul a slattern's!
Behold Miranda now uncover
With lingering gestures of a lover
A grave that brims with twenty moons
Filling the bowls of the silver spoons.
Her mind grew duller, her mouth grew muter,
Each time she stirred her tea with pewter,
Or touched a knife with a black bone handle;
Now she is lighted like a candle.

She tastes the sugar and the spice in
Simple porridge served on Meissin;
Grand bleu de Sevres, Italian faience,
Hold starvation in abeyance;
Poverty begins to shine,
The crust of bread is steeped in wine;
All the miracle of Cana
May be performed by painted china,
And even the portent of the mass
Imprisoned in a crystal glass.

How many lovely shapes are here:
Brillant and dark, opaque and clear;
Deep in earth, concealed thereunder;
Miranda dips her hands in wonder.
Here is Minton, smooth as cream;
Glass translucent as a dream
Of blue-green waves along the Lido,
Buried, as a bone by Fido!
Candle-sticks, divinely mated,
Fluted Sheffield, silver-plated,
Leap like lilies from the mold,
Clamoring for tongues of gold!

Miranda wakens from the dead;
Soon her table shall be spread
With alchemy of Belfast looms;
Tapers shall enchant the rooms
And make them populous as once;
Power shall flow from every sconce;
Like Delphic tripods they shall burn.
All the Peacocks shall return
As the sea's uncounted pebbles;
All the gray and golden rebels,
Fallen down like stars, to spangle
Earth, upon the Bloody Angle;
The devout and ivory ladies,
Back from heaven, back from Hades,
Back from other earthier scenes,
Baltimore and New Orleans;
Back from exile, back from durance,
Home again to proud assurance.

Here prepared within an upper
Chamber is Miranda's supper.
Now partake; it is her body;
And the carven cup is bloody
Where her fingers drew it forth
From mortality of earth.
Every broken crust and crumb
Savors of your coming home,
And the berries she has gathered
By divinity are fathered.
Eat the bread she is adoring,
Drink the water she is pouring;

Now approach, both man and ghost;
Nothing is lost! Nothing is lost!





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