Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RED LACQUER MUSIC-STAND, by AMY LOWELL



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THE RED LACQUER MUSIC-STAND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A music-stand of crimson lacquer, long since brought
Last Line: The boy began to dress, for it was getting late.


A MUSIC-STAND of crimson lacquer, long since brought
In some fast clipper-ship from China, quaintly wrought
With bossed and carven flowers and fruits in blackening
gold,
The slender shaft all twined about and thickly scrolled
With vine leaves and young twisted tendrils, whirling,
curling,
Flinging their new shoots over the four wings, and
swirling
From the sun will fall upon the altar and ignite
The spices, and his sacrifice will burn in perfumed
light.
Over the music-stand the ghosts of sounds will swim,
Viols d'amore and hautbois accorded to a hymn.
The Boy will see the faintest breath of angels' wings
Fanning the smoke, and voices will flower through the
strings.
He dares no farther vision, and with scalding eyes
Waits upon the daylight and his great emprise.

The cold, grey light of dawn was whitening the wall
When the Boy, fine-drawn by sleeplessness, started his
ritual.
He washed, all shivering and pointed like a flame.
He threw the shutters open, and in the window-
frame
The morning glimmered like a tarnished Venice glass.
He took his Chinese pastilles and put them in a mass
Upon the mantelpiece till he could seek a plate
Worthy to hold them burning. Alas! He had been late
In thinking of this need, and now he could not find
Platter or saucer rare enough to ease his mind.
The house was not astir, and he dared not go down
Into the barn-chamber, lest the door should be blown
And slam before the draught he made as he went out.
The light was growing yellower, and still he looked
about.
A flash of almost crimson from the gilded pear
Upon the music-stand, startled him waiting there.
The sun would rise and he would meet it unprepared,
Labelled a fool in having missed what he had dared.
He ran across the room, took his pastilles and laid
Them on the flat-topped pear, most carefully displayed
To light with ease, then stood a little to one side,
Focussed a burning-glass and painstakingly tried
To hold it angled so the bunched and prismed rays
Should leap upon each other and spring into a blaze.
Sharp as a wheeling edge of disked, carnation flame,
Gem-hard and cutting upward, slowly the round sun
came.
The arrowed fire caught the burning-glass and glanced,
Split to a multitude of pointed spears, and lanced,
A deeper, hotter flame, it took the incense pile
Which welcomed it and broke into a little smile
Of yellow flamelets, creeping, crackling, thrusting up,
A golden, red-slashed lily in a lacquer cup.

"O ye Fire and Heat, Bless ye the Lord; Praise
Him and Magnify Him for ever.
O ye Winter and Summer, Bless ye the Lord; Praise
Him and Magnify Him for ever.
O ye Nights and Days, Bless ye the Lord; Praise
Him, and Magnify Him for ever.
O ye Lightnings and Clouds, Bless ye the Lord;
Praise Him and Magnify Him for ever."

A moment so it hung, wide-curved, bright-petalled,
seeming
A chalice foamed with sunrise. The Boy woke from his
dreaming.
A spike of flame had caught the card of butterflies,
The oriole's nest took fire, soon all four galleries
Where he had spread his treasures were becoming one
tongue
Of gleaming, brutal fire. The Boy instantly swung
His pitcher off the wash-stand and turned it upside
down.
The flames drooped back and sizzled, and all his senses
grown
Acute by fear, the Boy grabbed the quilt from his bed
And flung it over all, and then with aching head
He watched the early sunshine glint on the remains
Of his holy offering. The lacquer stand had stains
Ugly and charred all over, and where the golden pear
Had been, a deep, black hole gaped miserably. His
dear
Treasures were puffs of ashes; only the stones were
there,
Winking in the brightness.
The clock upon the stair
Struck five, and in the kitchen some one shook a grate.
The Boy began to dress, for it was getting late.




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