Thursday, March 10, 2011

Edith Sitwell

Here's an Edith Sitwell poem for you:

Heart and Mind

SAID the Lion to the Lioness-'When you are amber dust,-
No more a raging fire like the heat of the Sun
(No liking but all lust)-
Remember still the flowering of the amber blood and bone,
The rippling of bright muscles like a sea,
Remember the rose-prickles of bright paws
Though the fire of that sun the heart and the moon-cold bone are one.'

Said the Skeleton lying upon the sands of Time-
'The great gold planet that is the mourning heat of the Sun
Is greater than all gold, more powerful
Than the tawny body of a Lion that fire consumes
Like all that grows or is the heart

More powerful than all dust. Once I was Hercules
Or Samson, strong as the pillars of the seas:
But the flames of the heart consumed me, and the mind
Is but a foolish wind.'

Said the Sun to the Moon-'When you are but a lonely white crone,
And I, a dead King in my golden armour somewhere in a dark wood,
Remember only this of our hopeless love
That never till Time is done
Will the fire of the heart and the fire of the mind be one.'

I've been remembering recently an early enthusiasm of mine for the extraordinary poet, Edith Sitwell, so I thought I'd share this poem, especially as it's Womens' Week this week, and I think that a lot of early modernist women writers are still not appreciated enough. I like her poems as much for their sounds as their meaning, though often, as in Colonel Fantock, for instance, there are memories and references to her awful upbringing. Even in this poem there is a sense of struggle between the demands of the heart and the demands of the mind. She was brought up to be an aristocratic lady, to be a silent 'support' for some rich man; but she was too clever and strange looking (she looked like a crane, as she herself saw.)

I don't know if she was a great poet, but like other women poets of a modernist bent, she deserves to be remembered. Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Lynette Roberts, Lorinne Neidecker and others are all on the 'neglected' list, and they're all worth revisiting.

1 comment:

Janet Fisher said...

I love Neidecker. I only came across her quite recently and she is already one of my favourite poets.