The Lamp of Life

Amy Lowell - 1874-1925
          Always we are following a light,
           Always the light recedes; with groping hands
           We stretch toward this glory, while the lands
          We journey through are hidden from our sight
          Dim and mysterious, folded deep in night,
           We care not, all our utmost need demands
           Is but the light, the light! So still it stands
          Surely our own if we exert our might.
          Fool! Never can'st thou grasp this fleeting gleam,
           Its glowing flame would die if it were caught,
          Its value is that it doth always seem
           But just a little farther on. Distraught,
           But lighted ever onward, we are brought
          Upon our way unknowing, in a dream.

More by Amy Lowell

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.


They have watered the street,
It shines in the glare of lamps, 
Cold, white lamps, 
And lies
Like a slow-moving river,
Barred with silver and black.
Cabs go down it,
One,
And then another,
Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
The city is squalid and sinister,
With the silver-barred street in the midst,
Slow-moving,
A river leading nowhere.

Opposite my window,
The moon cuts,
Clear and round,
Through the plum-coloured night.
She cannot light the city:
It is too bright.
It has white lamps,
And glitters coldly.

I stand in the window and watch the
   moon.
She is thin and lustreless,
But I love her.
I know the moon, 
And this is an alien city.

Opal

You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead 
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?