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Elinor Morton Wylie

Venetian Interior

Allegra, rising from her canopied dreams,
Slides both white feet across the slanted beams
Which lace the peacock jalousies: behold
An idol of fine clay, with feet of gold

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The Pekingese

For a picture

This Pekingese, that makes the sand-grains spin,
Is digging little tunnels to Pekin:
Dream him emerging in a porcelain cave
Where wounded dragons stain a pearly wave.

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Little Joke

Stripping an almond tree in flower
The wise apothecary's skill
A single drop of lethal power
From perfect sweetness can distill

From bitterness in efflorescence,
With murderous poisons packed therein;
The poet draws pellucid essence
Pure as a drop of metheglin.

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Curious Circumstance

The sailorman's child
And the girl of the witch--
They can't be defiled
By touching pitch.

The sailorman's son
Had a ship for a nursery;
The other one
Was baptised by sorcery.

Although he's shipped
To the Persian Gulf, her
Body's been dipped
In burning sulphur.

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Ophelia

My locks are shorn for sorrow
Of love which may not be;
Tomorrow and tomorrow
Are plotting cruelty.

The winter wind tangles
These ringlets half-grown,
The sun sprays with spangles
And rays like his own.

Oh, quieter and colder
Is the stream; he will wait;
When my curls touch my shoulder
He will comb them straight.

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The Poor Old Cannon

Upbroke the sun
In red-gold foam;
Thus spoke the gun
At the Soldier's Home:

"Whenever I hear
Blue thunder speak
My voice sounds clear
But little and weak.

"And when the proud
Young cockerels crow
My voice sounds loud,
But gentle and low.

"When the mocking-bird
Prolongs his note
I cannot be heard
Though I split my throat."

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Beauty

Say not of beauty she is good,
Or aught but beautiful,
Or sleek to doves' wings of the wood
Her wild wings of a gull.

Call her not wicked; that word's touch
Consumes her like a curse;
But love her not too much, too much,
For that is even worse.

O, she is neither good nor bad,
But innocent and wild!
Enshrine her and she dies, who had
The hard heart of a child.

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Cold-Blooded Creatures

Man, the egregious egoist
(In mystery the twig is bent)
Imagines, by some mental twist,
That he alone is sentient

Of the intolerable load
That on all living creatures lies,
Nor stoops to pity in the toad
The speechless sorrow of his eyes.

He asks no questions of the snake,
Nor plumbs the phosphorescent gloom
Where lidless fishes, broad awake,
Swim staring at a nightmare doom.

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Now let no charitable hope

Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope:
I am by nature none of these.

I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
What little nourishment I get.

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.

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Love Song

Lovers eminent in love
Ever diversities combine;
The vocal chords of the cushat-dove,
The snake's articulated spine.

Such elective elements
Educate the eye and lip
With one's refreshing innocence,
The other's claim to scholarship.

The serpent's knowledge of the world
Learn, and the dove's more naïve charm;
Whether your ringlets should be curled,
And why he likes his claret warm.

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