“Of all the sounds despatched” (F334A, J321)

Of all the Sounds despatched
abroad –
There’s not a charge to me
Like that old measure
in the Boughs
That phraseless Melody –
The Wind does – working
like a Hand
Whose fingers brush the Sky –
Then quiver down – with
Tufts of Tune –
Permitted men (Gods) – and me –

Inheritance it is – to us –
Beyond the Art to Earn –
Beyond the trait to take
away –
By Robber – since the Gain
Is gotten, not with fingers –
And inner than the Bone –
Hid golden – for the whole
of Days –
And even in the Urn –
I cannot vouch the merry
Do not arise and play –
In some odd fashion
of it’s own –
Some quainter Holiday –

When Winds go round
and round, in Bands –
And thrum opon the Door –
And Birds take places – Overhead –
To bear them Orchestra –

I crave him grace – of
Summer Boughs –
If such an Outcast be –
He never heard that
fleshless Chant
Rise solemn, in the Tree –
As if some Caravan of
On Deserts, in the Sky
Had broken Ran (k) –
Then knit – and passed – (swept)
In Seamless Company –

Link to EDA manuscript. Originally in Packet XIV, Mixed Fasciles, ca. 1860-1862. First published in Higginson, Christian Union, 42 (25 September 1890), 393, in part, as two eight-line stanzas. Poems (1890), 96-97, in part, from the fascicle (A), as five stanzas of 4, 4, 4, 4, and 5 lines; the alternative for line 8 was adopted. Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

This poem follows directly after “Many a phrase has the English language,” and continues the theme of heard language or sound in the many sounds of the wind.  William Shurr argues that the poem develops “a comparison between the way the wind moves across the landscape and the way the hand of a lover moves across a woman’s body.” There is certainly sensuous pleasure in hearing “that phraseless Melody,” and also in contemplating how the wind “plays” with the “Dust,” which suggests the poet’s own play with im/mortality and the “fleshless chant” of poetry. The final images of an exotic desert caravan first breaking rank, then knitting back together and passing on “in seamless Company” evokes the restless, non-conforming poetics of the poet herself.

Sources            Back to Index of Poems for Jan 22-28