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Poem by Amy Lowell
Before the Altar
Before the Altar, bowed, he stands With empty hands; Upon it perfumed offerings burn Wreathing with smoke the sacrificial urn. Not one of all these has he given, No flame of his has leapt to Heaven Firesouled, vermilion-hearted, Forked, and darted, Consuming what a few spare pence Have cheaply bought, to fling from hence In idly-asked petition. His sole condition Love and poverty. And while the moon Swings slow across the sky, Athwart a waving pine tree, And soon Tips all the needles there With silver sparkles, bitterly He gazes, while his soul Grows hard with thinking of the poorness of his dole. "Shining and distant Goddess, hear my prayer Where you swim in the high air! With charity look down on me, Under this tree, Tending the gifts I have not brought, The rare and goodly things I have not sought. Instead, take from me all my life! "Upon the wings Of shimmering moonbeams I pack my poet's dreams For you. My wearying strife, My courage, my loss, Into the night I toss For you. Golden Divinity, Deign to look down on me Who so unworthily Offers to you: All life has known, Seeds withered unsown, Hopes turning quick to fears, Laughter which dies in tears. The shredded remnant of a man Is all the span And compass of my offering to you. "Empty and silent, I Kneel before your pure, calm majesty. On this stone, in this urn I pour my heart and watch it burn, Myself the sacrifice; but be Still unmoved: Divinity." From the altar, bathed in moonlight, The smoke rose straight in the quiet night.
Amy Lowell's other poems:
English Poetry. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org