Hilda Doolittle





Christmas 1944

I
The stratosphere was once where angels were;
if we are dizzy and a little mad,
forgive us, we have had
experience of a world beyond our sphere,
there—where no angels are;

the angel host and choir
is driven further, higher,
or (so it seems to me) descended to our level,
to share our destiny;

we do not see the fire,
we do not even hear
the whirr and distant roar,
we have gone hence before

the sound manifests;
are we here? or there?
we do not know,
waiting from hour to hour,

hoping for what? dispersal
of our poor bodies’ frame?
what do we hope for?
name remembered? faults forgot?

or do we hope to rise upward?
no—no—not to those skies;
rather we question here,
what do I love?

what have I left un-loved?
what image would I choose
had I one thing, as gift,
redeemed from dust and ash?

I ask, what would I take?
which doll clutch to my breast?
should some small tender ghost.
descended from the host

or cherubim and choirs, speak:
‘look, they are all here,
all, all your loveliest treasures,
look, and then choose—but one—

we have our journey now,
poor child—come.’

II
A Dresden girl and boy
held up the painted dial,
but I had quite forgot
I had that little clock;

I’ll take the clock—but how?
why, it was broken, lost,
dismantled long ago;

but there’s another treasure,
that slice  of amber-rock,
a traveller once brought
me from the Baltic coast,

and with it (these are small)
the little painted swallow—
where are they? one, I left,
I know at a friend’s house;

and there’s that little cat
that lapped milk from my tray
at breakfast-time—but where?

at some hotel perhaps?
or staying with a friend?
or was it in a dream?
a small cat with grey fur;
perhaps you may remember?

	it’s true I lent or gave away the amber,
	the swallow’s somewhere else in someone’s house,
	the clock was long ago, dismantled, lost,
	the cat was dream or memory or both;
	but I’ll take these—is it too much?

III
We are a little dizzy
and quite mad,
but we have had
strange visitations
from the stratosphere,
of angels drawn to earth
and nearer angels;

we think and feel and speak
like children lost,
for one Child too, was cast
at Christmas, from a house
of stone with wood for beam
and lintel and door-shaft;

go—go—there is no room
for you, in this our Inn:

to Him, the painted swallow,
to Him, the lump of amber,
to Him, the boy and the girl
with roses and love-knots,
to Him, the little cat
to play beneath the Manger:

	if we are dizzy
	and a little mad,
	forgive us, we have had
	strange visitations
	from the stratosphere.