Amy Lowell

Here you will find the Poem Before the Altar of poet Amy Lowell

Before the Altar

Before the Altar, bowed, he stands 
With empty hands; 
Upon it perfumed offerings burn 
Wreathing with smoke the sacrificial urn. 
Not one of all these has he given, 
No flame of his has leapt to Heaven 
Firesouled, vermilion-hearted, 
Forked, and darted, 
Consuming what a few spare pence 
Have cheaply bought, to fling from hence 
In idly-asked petition. 

His sole condition 
Love and poverty. 
And while the moon 
Swings slow across the sky, 
Athwart a waving pine tree, 
And soon 
Tips all the needles there 
With silver sparkles, bitterly 
He gazes, while his soul 
Grows hard with thinking of the poorness of his dole. 

"Shining and distant Goddess, hear my prayer 
Where you swim in the high air! 
With charity look down on me, 
Under this tree, 
Tending the gifts I have not brought, 
The rare and goodly things 
I have not sought. 
Instead, take from me all my life! 

"Upon the wings 
Of shimmering moonbeams 
I pack my poet's dreams 
For you. 
My wearying strife, 
My courage, my loss, 
Into the night I toss 
For you. 
Golden Divinity, 
Deign to look down on me 
Who so unworthily 
Offers to you: 
All life has known, 
Seeds withered unsown, 
Hopes turning quick to fears, 
Laughter which dies in tears. 
The shredded remnant of a man 
Is all the span 
And compass of my offering to you. 

"Empty and silent, I 
Kneel before your pure, calm majesty. 
On this stone, in this urn 
I pour my heart and watch it burn, 
Myself the sacrifice; but be 
Still unmoved: Divinity.? 

From the altar, bathed in moonlight, 
The smoke rose straight in the quiet night.