Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

Lacquer Prints (1913-1919)


Upon the maple leaves
The dew shines red,
But on the lotus blossom
It has the pale transparence of tears.


When I stand under the willow-tree
Above the river,
In my straw-coloured silken garment
Embroidered with purple chrysanthemums,
It is not at the bright water
That I am gazing,
But at your portrait,
Which I have caused to be painted
On my fan.

Near Kioto

As I crossed over the bridge of Ariwarano Narikira,
I saw that the waters were purple
With the floating leaves of maple.

Yoshiwara Lament

Golden peacocks
Under blossoming cherry-trees,
But on all the wide sea
There is no boat.

A Year Passes

Beyond the porcelain fence of the pleasure garden,
I hear the frogs in the blue-green rice-fields;
But the sword-shaped moon
Has cut my heart in two.


All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

The Emperor’s Garden

Once, in the sultry heats of Midsummer,
An Emperor caused the miniature mountains in his garden
To be covered with white silk,
That so crowned
They might cool his eyes
With the sparkle of snow.

One of the “Hundred Views of Fuji” by Hokusai

Being thirsty,
I filled a cup with water,
And, behold! Fuji-yama lay upon the water
like a dropped leaf!


Even the iris bends
When a butterfly lights upon it.

Nuit Blanche

The chirping of crickets in the night
Is intermittent,
Like the twinkling of stars.

Spring Dawn

He wore a coat
With gold and red maple leaves,
He was girt with the two swords,
He carried a peony lantern.
When I awoke,
There was only the blue shadow of the plum-tree
Upon the shôji.

Again the New Year Festival

I have drunk your health
In the red-lacquer wine cups,
But the wind-bells on the bronze lanterns
In my garden
Are corroded and fallen.

The Kagoes of a Returning Traveller

Diagonally between the cryptomerias,
What I took for the flapping of wings
Was the beating feet of your runners,
O my Lord!

Outside a Gate

On the floor of the empty palanquin
The plum petals constantly increase.

Road to the Yoshiwara

Coming to you along the Nihon Embankment
Suddenly the road was darkened
By a flock of wild geese
Crossing the moon.

A Daimyo’s Oiran

When I hear your runners shouting:
“Get down! Get down!”
Then I dress my hair
With the little chrysanthemums.


Although so many years,
Still the vows we made each other
Remain tied to the great trunk
Of the seven separate trees
In the courtyard of the Crimson Temple
At Nara.

Autumn Haze

Is it a dragon fly or maple leaf
That settles softly down upon the water?

Lowell’s ‘Lacquer Prints’ began appearing in journals as early as 1912, and appeared together, in increasingly larger numbers, in the March 1917 Poetry, Some Imagist Poets, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917, and Pictures of the Floating World, New York: Macmillan, 1919. Reprint, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927.


Twenty-Four Hokku on a Modern Theme

Again the larkspur,
Heavenly blue in my garden.
They, at least, unchanged.

Have I hurt you?
You look at me with pale eyes,
But these are my tears.

Morning and evening —
Yet for us once long ago
Was no division.

I hear many words.
Set an hour when I may come
Or remain silent.

In the ghostly dawn
I write new words for your ears —
Even now you sleep.

This then is morning.
Have you no comfort for me
Cold-coloured flowers?

My eyes are weary
Following you everywhere.
Short, oh short, the days!

When the flower falls
The leaf is no more cherished.
Every day I fear.

Even when you smile
Sorrow is behind your eyes.
Pity me, therefore.

Laugh — it is nothing.
To others you may seem gay,
I watch with grieved eyes.

Take it, this white rose.
Stems of roses do not bleed;
Your fingers are safe.

As a river-wind
Hurling clouds at a bright moon,
So am I to you.

Watching the iris,
The faint and fragile petals —
How am I worthy?

Down a red river
I drift in a broken skiff.
Are you so brave?

Night lies beside me
Chaste and cold as a sharp sword.
It and I alone.

Last night it rained.
Now, in the desolate dawn,
Crying of blue jays.

Foolish so to grieve,
Autumn has its coloured leaves —
But before they turn?

Afterwards I think:
Poppies bloom when it thunders.
Is this not enough?

Love is a game — yes?
I think it is a drowning:
Black willows and stars.

When the aster fades
The creeper flaunts in crimson.
Always another!

Turning from the page,
Blind with a night of labour,
I hear morning crows.

A cloud of lilies,
Or else you walk before me.
Who could see clearly?

Sweet smell of wet flowers
Over an evening garden.
Your portrait, perhaps?

Staying in my room,
I thought of the new Spring leaves.
That day was happy.

‘Twenty-Four Hokku on a Modern Theme’ appeared first in Poetry 18 (June 1921): 124-27., and was reprinted in the posthumous What’s O’clock, Edited by Ada Dwyer Russell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1925.
This book was awarded the Pulitzer Price in 1926, a year after her death.


The Anniversary

Ten years is nothing,
Yet I do not remember
What happened before.

Morning flings shadows,
But midday is shadowless.
So I have found it.

I have no flowers,
Yet I give you these roses.
Humor my pretence.

Have I satisfied?
Who can be sure of himself.
Touch me with your love.

Knowing my weakness,
Spread your hands above my head.
See only your hands.

Watching you daily,
I dare not think what I see.
It is better so.

Since I am only
What you may consider me,
Have merciful thoughts.

Shield me from myself.
At times I have wounded you.
I do not forget.

Take what I give you.
Foolishness is in my words,
But not in my heart.

Cease urging your ears,
My speach has little for them.
Hearken otherwise.

You wrong me, saying:
One death will not kill us both.
Your veins hold my sap.

Keep in remembrance:
Peonies do not blossom
Till Spring is over.

You prefer Spring? Why?
A season's length of hours —

Days and days — what then?
Is not recurrence a smile
On the face of age?

Now, in the pale dawn,
How strange to consider time.
What is it to us?

Grains of rice counted —
Can any one so spend life?
Be spacious and wise.

The bowl is still full.
We will not be niggardly.
Plunge in both your hands.

I have known terror.
I swear to know it no more,
Each day a new dawn.

Youth is incautious.
Wisdom learns to tread softly,
Valuing moments.

Cherish what is,
The wise man sees it depart
Without emotion.

Time is rhetoric.
A mad logician's plaything.
O pitiful world!

Listen to the wind;
Man has not learnt to measure
The wind of his thoughts.

Blowing assunder,
Yet we shall be as the air
Still undivided.

Sleep until day-spring.
With morning we start again,
Another ten years.

Amy Lowell. What’s O’clock, Edited by Ada Dwyer Russell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1925.



In the sky there is a moon and stars,
And in my garden there are yellow moths
Fluttering about a white azalea bush

Amy Lowell. A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now. Edited by Aliki Barnstone & Willis Barnstone. New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1980.



O you,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wil white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees?

Amy Lowell. A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now. Edited by Aliki Barnstone & Willis Barnstone. New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1980.


Wind and Silver

Greatly shining,
The Autumn moon floats in the thin sky;
And the fish-ponds shake their backs and flash their dragon scales
As she passes over them.

Amy Lowell. A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now. Edited by Aliki Barnstone & Willis Barnstone. New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1980.


The Fisherman's Wife

When I am alone,
The wind in the pine-trees
Is like the shuffling of waves
Upon the wooden sides of a boat.

Amy Lowell. A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now. Edited by Aliki Barnstone & Willis Barnstone. New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1980.



Your voice is like bells over roofs at dawn
When a bird flies
And the sky changes to a fresher colour.

Speak, speak, Beloved.
Say little things
For my ears to catch
And run with them to my heart.



Last night, at sunset,
The foxgloves were like tall altar candles.
Could I have lifted you to the roof of the greenhouse,
my Dear,
I should have understood their burning.


Middle Age

Like black ice
Scrolled over with unintelligible patterns
by an ignorant skater
Is the dulled surface of my heart.