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Poem by Hilda Doolittle


Nossis


I thought to hear him speak
the girl might rise
and make the garden silver,
as the white moon breaks,
Nossis, he cried, a flame.

I said:
a girl thats dead
some hundred years;
a poet--what of that?
for in the islands,
in the haunts of Greek Ionia,
Rhodes and Cyprus,
girls are cheap.

I said, to test his mood,
to make him rage or laugh or sing or weep,
in Greek Ionia and in Cyprus,
many girls are found
with wreaths and apple-branches.

Only a hundred years or two or three,
has she lain dead
yet men forget;
he said,
I want a garden,
and I thought
he wished to make a terrace on the hill,
bend the stream to it,
set out daffodils,
plant Phrygian violets,
such was his will and whim,
I thought,
to name and watch each flower.

His was no garden
bright with Tyrian violets,
his was a shelter
wrought of flame and spirit,
and as he flung her name
against the dark,
I thought the iris-flowers
that lined the path
must be the ghost of Nossis.

Who made the wreath,
for what man was it wrought?
speak, fashioned all of fruit-buds,
song, my loveliest,
say Meleager brought to Diodes,
(a gift for that enchanting friend)
memories with names of poets.

He sought for Moero, lilies,
and those many,
red-lilies for Anyte,
for Sappho, roses,
with those few, he caught
that breath of the sweet-scented
leaf of iris,
the myrrh-iris,
to set beside the tablet
and the wax
which Love had burnt,
when scarred across by Nossis.

when she wrote:

I Nossis stand by this:
I state that love is sweet:
if you think otherwise
assert what beauty
or what charm_
_after the charm of love,
retains its grace?

Honey you say:
honey? I say I spit
honey out of my mouth:
nothing is second-best
after the sweet of Eros.

I Nossis stand and state
that he whom Love neglects
has naught, no flower, no grace,
who lacks that rose, her kiss.

I thought to hear him speak
the girl might rise
and make the garden silver
as the white moon breaks,
Nossis, he cried, a flame.



Hilda Doolittle


Hilda Doolittle's other poems:
  1. We Two
  2. Lais
  3. Heliodora
  4. Centaur Song
  5. Thetis


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