Marianne Moore





And Shall Life Pass an Old Maid By?

It would seem so, judging by neat
Delineations of the lady, in her zeal to meet
   Commiserations fitly, from beneath a dusty mask.
Convention's face misleads the artist's feet.

Bloody in youth, withered in age,
That powdered mask could not induce a more outrageous rage
   Were it a poisoned thing and yet, for all its emptiness,
It dares to print a profile on the page.

It copies to the life, some freak
Of sentiment in lavender sprigged silk; bids bloodhounds speak
   From picket gates, adjuring every lonely optimist
That he press on, and hastening, be meek.

Or it depicts an Amazon
Harsh voiced and candle-cheeked, a sort of blunderbuss, a Don
   Quixote, crating wildly where incisive action is
Required - exploded - with its luster gone.

Regard unprejudiced, the plate
Of pewter with the satin rim - more lustrous, more sedate
   When it's a grandmother's than when it's polished by old maids.
Old maids exist but they're precipitate.

How diagnose felicity?
It is an abstract thing, distributed impartially
   Between good, bad, all sorts - and is renounceable.
Who knows where it may be, or may not be?