Marianne Moore


This institution,
perhaps one should say enterprise 
out of respect for which 
one says one need not change one's mind 
about a thing one has believed in,
requiring public promises 
of one's intention to fulfill a private obligation:
I wonder what Adam and Eve 
think of it by this time,
this fire-gilt steel 
alive with goldenness;
how bright it shows -
"of circular traditions and impostures, 
committing many spoils,"
requiring all one's criminal ingenuity 
to avoid!
Psychology which explains everything 
explains nothing,
and we are still in doubt.
Eve: beautiful woman-- 
I have seen her 
when she was so handsome 
she gave me a start,
able to write simultaneously 
in three languages -
English, German, and French - 
and talk in the meantime;
equally positive in demanding a commotion 
and in stipulating quiet:
"I should like to be alone;"
to which the visitor replies,
"I should like to be alone;  
why not be alone together?"
Below the incandescent stars 
below the incandescent fruit,
the strange experience of beauty;
its existence is too much;
it tears one to pieces 
and each fresh wave of consciousness 
is poison.
"See her, see her in this common world,"
the central flaw 
in that first crystal-fine experiment,
this amalgamation which can never be more 
than an interesting impossibility,
describing it 
as "that strange paradise 
unlike flesh, stones,
gold or stately buildings, 
the choicest piece of my life:
the heart rising 
in its estate of peace 
as a boat rises with the rising of the water;"
constrained in speaking of the serpent -
shed snakeskin in the history of politeness 
not to be returned to again -
that invaluable accident
exonerating Adam.
And he has beauty also;
it's distressing - the O thou 
to whom from whom,
without whom nothing”Adam;
"something feline, 
something colubrine” - how true!
a crouching mythological monster 
in that Persian miniature of emerald mines,
raw silk - ivory white, snow white, 
oyster white, and six others -
that paddock full of leopards and giraffes -
long lemon-yellow bodies 
sown with trapezoids of blue.
Alive with words,
vibrating like a cymbal 
touched before it has been struck,
he has prophesied correctly -
the industrious waterfall,
"the speedy stream 
which violently bears all before it,
at one time silent as the air 
and now powerful as the wind."
"Treading chasms 
on the uncertain footing of a spear,"
forgetting that there is in woman 
a quality of mind 
which as an instinctive manifestation 
is unsafe,
he goes on speaking 
in a formal customary strain,
of "past states, the present state, 
seals, promises,
the evil one suffered, 
the good one enjoys,
hell, heaven, 
everything convenient 
to promote one's joy."
In him a state of mind 
perceives what it was not 
intended that he should;
"he experiences a solemn joy 
in seeing that he has become an idol."
Plagued by the nightingale 
in the new leaves,
with its silence -
not its silence but its silences,
he says of it:
"It clothes me with a shirt of fire."
'He dares not clap his hands 
to make it go on 
lest it should fly off;
if he does nothing, it will sleep;
if he cries out, it will not understand."
Unnerved by the nightingale 
and dazzled by the apple,
impelled by "the illusion of a fire 
effectual to extinguish fire,"
compared with which 
the shining of the earth 
is but deformity - a fire 
"as high as deep 
as bright as broad 
as long as life itself,"
he stumbles over marriage,
"a very trivial object indeed" 
to have destroyed the attitude 
in which he stood -
the ease of the philosopher 
unfathered by a woman.
Unhelpful Hymen!
a kind of overgrown cupid 
reduced to insignificance 
by the mechanical advertising 
parading as involuntary comment,
by that experiment of Adam's 
with ways out but no way in -
the ritual of marriage, 
augmenting all its lavishness;
its fiddle head ferns, 
lotus flowers, opuntias, white dromedaries,
its hippopotamus -
nose and mouth combined 
in one magnificent hopper -
its snake and the potent apple.
He tells us 
that 'for love that will 
gaze an eagle blind,
that is with Hercules 
climbing the trees 
in the garden of the Hesperides,
from forty-five to seventy 
is the best age."
commending it 
as a fine art, as an experiment, 
a duty or as merely recreation.
One must not call him ruffian 
nor friction a calamity -
the fight to be affectionate:
'no truth can be fully known 
until it has been tried 
by the tooth of disputation."
The blue panther with blue eyes, 
entirely graceful -
One must give them the path -
the black obsidian Diana 
who "darkeneth her countenance 
as a bear doth,"
the spiked hand 
that has an affection for one 
and proves it to the bone.
impatient to assure you 
that impatience is the mark of independence, 
not of bondage.
"Married people often look that way” - 
"seldom and cold, up and down,
mixed and malarial 
with a good day and a bad."
We Occidentals are so unemotional,
self lost, the irony preserved 
in "the Ahasuerus tête-à-tête banquet"
with its small orchids like snakes' tongues,
with its "good monster, lead the way,"
with little laughter 
and munificence of humor 
in that quixotic atmosphere of frankness 
in which "four o'clock does not exist,
but at five o'clock 
the ladies in their imperious humility 
are ready to receive you;"
in which experience attests 
that men have power 
and sometimes one is made to feel it.
He says, "What monarch would not blush 
to have a wife 
with hair like a shaving brush?"
The fact of woman 
is "not the sound of the flute 
but very poison."
She says, "Men are monopolists 
of 'stars, garters, buttons' -  
and other shining baubles' - 
unfit to be the guardians 
of another person's happiness."
He says, "These mummies 
must be handled carefully - 
'the crumbs from a lion's meal,
a couple of shins and the bit of an ear';
turn to the letter M 
and you will find 
that 'a wife is a coffin,'
that severe object 
with the pleasing geometry 
stipulating space not people,
refusing to be buried 
and uniquely disappointing,
revengefully wrought in the attitude 
of an adoring child 
to a distinguished parent.
She says, "This butterfly, 
this waterfly, this nomad 
that has ˜promised
to settle on my hand for life' -
What can one do with it?
There must have been more time 
in Shakespeare's day 
to sit and watch a play.
You know so many artists who are fools.
He says, "You know so many fools 
who are not artists."
The fact forgot 
that "some have merely rights 
while some have obligations,"
he loves himself so much,
he can permit himself 
no rival in that love.
She loves herself so much,
she cannot see herself enough -
a statuette of ivory on ivory,
the logical last touch 
to an expansive splendor 
earned as wages for work done:
one is not rich but poor 
when one can always seem so right.
What can one do for them -
these savages 
condemned to disaffect 
all those who are not visionaries 
alert to undertake the silly task 
of making people noble?
This model of petrine fidelity 
who "leaves her peaceful husband 
only because she has seen enough of him” - 
that orator reminding you, 
"I am yours to command."
"Everything to do with love is mystery;
it is more than a day's work 
to investigate this science."
One sees that it is rare -
that striking grasp of opposites 
opposed each to the other, not to unity,
which in cycloid inclusiveness 
have dwarfed the demonstration 
of Columbus with the egg -
triumph of simplicity -
that charitive Euroclydon 
of frightening disinterestedness 
which the world hates,

	"I am such a cow, 
	if l had a sorrow 
	I should feel it a long time;
	I am not one of those 
	who have a great sorrow 
	in the morning 
	and a great joy at noon;"

which says: "I have encountered it 
among those unpretentious 
protgs of wisdom,
where seeming to parade 
as the debater and the Roman,
the statesmanship 
of an archaic Daniel Webster 
persists to their simplicity of temper 
as the essence of the matter:

	˜Liberty and union 
	now and forever';

the Book on the writing-table;
the hand in the breast-pocket."