Monday, December 21, 2009

Lately, when I've been reading Milly Jourdain's poems, I find myself wanting to cry, or shake her, or do something abrasive, which I realize is not a kind response to the yearnings of a fragile invalid. But these poems keep rising to loveliness and then, one after another, nose-dive into a snap-the-suitcase-shut ending. It's starting to drive me crazy. Sometimes I think she is doing what many apprentice poets do: she is concluding the poem too early, generally when it has started getting very hard to write. At other times I think she is purposely pulling down the shades to keep me at bay. In any case these bland and/or hack endings are an unfortunate footnote to some beautiful internal lines.

Here are two Milly poems.

The Wind

Milly Jourdain

The wind blows wild across the gray river,
Against those dusky walls, and through the trees,
Along the level streets.

With the same voice it blows across the sea,
Across those grassy fields and shadowed vales,
And down the grey village.

And yet again when I am nearing sleep,
I hear it softly blowing through the fields
And waving grass of youth.


Milly Jourdain

I know a place where winds blow over wide
Wet downs, and where the yellow sheep
Like stars are crowded on a steep hill side;

Where palest primroses shine down the lane
And blue-bells follow after faintly sweet,
And often all the land is blurred with rain;

And when the little trees are cold and bare,
The lambs do cry like children in the mist,
And there's no other sound in the damp air.

In the dark night, when I lie on my bed
In this old town of water and gray towers,
The wandering sheep-bells tinkle in my head.

Do you see why I'm getting so frustrated? Because "And when the little trees are cold and bare,/The lambs do cry like children in the mist" is stunning, while "The wandering sheep-bells tinkle in my head" is not stunning.

Argh. I don't know why I take her unevenness to heart, but I do.

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