Amy Lowell

(9 February 1874 – 12 May 1925 / Boston, Massachusetts)

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Patterns


I walk down the garden-paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jeweled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden-paths.
My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the
buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover.
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he
clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon--
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the
Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Kay Staley (10/2/2014 9:31:00 AM)

    It is nice that it captures the Victorian theme with its stiffness...it almost makes the reader sit up straighter when reading it. For me personally, I would like it so much more if it had raw cutting emotion that an average modern day reader could identify with. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (6/6/2014 3:58:00 PM)

    .............truly a beautiful write.....wish she could have had a happily ever after...
    ..................................~~~~~~ love love love ~~~~~~................................... (Report) Reply

  • Karen Sinclair (10/2/2012 12:53:00 AM)

    Now this is exactly the reason i read poetry... it took me along an avenue of thoughts and life experiences, joy pain, appreciation. The stiffness required in victorian times, which created such distance from our natural selves and this poem screams, release me within the waterfall and her hero whom she waited and dreamed of was so cruelly taken in battle and she walks away demure and refined as requested but i guess she may of wanted to release so much more but her final line expresses perfectly a lady who has had enough....Amy Lowell you were amazing.... fabulously fresh considering how long ago it was written....
    i cannot claim to understand the full intricacies of this piece so have just chosen to go with the flow, , , , , Brilliance (Report) Reply

  • R James Sterzinger (3/28/2009 11:29:00 PM)

    I will be doing a poetry reading in Minneapolis soon. this is one of the poems I will be reading. Why, because it rings true, it rings true. First time i read it 30+ years ago, i didn't get it. I do now. This is one of the best of the last century. Indeed, 'what are patterns for? ' This one I will read with Wilfred Owen, look up his work! (Report) Reply

  • Judith Mayer (3/15/2007 4:00:00 AM)

    'Patterns' by Amy Lowell, is one of my favourite poems, although written over a century ago, its themes are relevant today. (Report) Reply

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