Sunday, 15 October 2017

Mermaid - Louise Morey Bowman


Louise Morey Bowman 1882–1944 is recognised as Canada's first imagist poet.

Mermaid

Fra Lippo Lippi's women had your breasts,
And your great curving forehead - but your ears
Are delicate crinkled shells God must have clapped
Upon a mermaid's head on either side
When he created her in deep sea-caves
Finishing with a lovely sea-green tail
But your white limbs are purely Eden made.

When your veined eyelids droop, then Lippi paints
Your portrait til you lift your gaze again.
Such eyes are far beyond Fra Lippi's power.
For Eve's were not so simple and profound
I think and Lilith's not so darkly grey.
Yours are the eyes that, in those green sea-caves,
Reproachful, stared at God, and at your tail.

Found this in a wartime anthology of Canadian Poetry (Pelican Books 1942); compiled by Ralph Gustafson it has some dreary fare indeed which I hope was at least comforting for soldiers, sailors and airmen thinking of home. The pages have almost disintegrated as it is on ration-quality paper. The book even has its old adverts.




This poem by Bowman stands out: although at first it seems cut from a swirly Browning cloth, it slips out of the Victorian Romantic stream into something quite different and arrestingly sensual. Hope you enjoy it.







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