Saturday, November 14, 2009

First published on June 12, 2009

A few days ago, I received, with great pleasure, an email from biographer Hilary Spurling about my review of Milly Jourdain's forgotten 1924 poetry collection Unfulfilment. I hope she will not mind my sharing a few of her thoughts:

"You & I are almost certainly her only living readers, and we think alike.  Re-reading her poems--the ones I quoted, & the ones you did--makes  me sure we're right.  A faint kinship in her neatness & low tone, & her sentiment or lack of it, with Emily Dickinson, don't you think? 'tiny sounds like dry and restless sobs' or the drifting rain & trailing smoke of dreams in 'Watching the Meet'.  Of course she was always a guttering flame & soon snuffed out--you are the only reader who ever mentioned her to me--and I can't tell you how glad I am you did--and to know that pale flame burns again in Maine." 

But today Hilary and I are not Milly's only living readers because you've read a few of her poems too. And Hilary wonders if I should, once a week or so, post one or another of her poems here. Maybe I'll do that, and maybe I'll also post them in their published order. It seems like a small gift to Milly and also, I hope, a small gift to Hilary, who first recognized their worth.


Milly Jourdain

I know too late how fluently my bow
Should skim the strings, my fingers giving birth
To living notes which sound about my ears
And make a heavenly music, though on earth.

And still I see how clearly shines the light
On winter branches, how the dripping rain
Deepens the colours on the hills, and how
To draw those horses plodding up the lane.

I know too late; my hands can do no more;
All powerless upon my lap they lie.
Only my sense of colour and of sound,
And biting pain, increases till I die.

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