Modern Verse in English, 1900-1950

By David Cecil; Allen Tate | Go to book overview

If the clover's leaves are four,
good luck's just behind the door.
If your hand goes through a mirror,
the glass is dear, but bad luck's dearer.
Swipe a horsehair from his tail, drown it in a water pail:
it takes thirty days to make
horsehair turn into a snake.
You want a new dress, I do too.
You bite a butterfly, I'll chew a leaf.

Baby will come to love and grief.


Elizabeth Bishop (Am. b. 1911)

The Imaginary Iceberg

We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship,
although it meant the end of travel.
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock
and all the sea were moving marble.
We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship;
we'd rather own this breathing plain of snow
though the ships' sails were laid upon the sea
as the snow lies undissolved upon the water.
O solemn, floating field,
are you aware an iceberg takes repose
with you, and when it wakes may pasture on your
snows?

This is a scene a sailor'd give his eyes for.
The ship's ignored. The iceberg rises
and sinks again; its glassy pinnacles
correct elliptics in the sky.
This is a scene where he who treads the boards
is artlessly rhetorical. The curtain
is light enough to rise on finest ropes
that airy twists of snow provide.
The wits of these white peaks
spar with the sun. Its weight the iceberg dares
upon a shifting stage and stands and stares.

-547-

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