Marianne Clarke Moore

Here you will find the Long Poem Marriage of poet Marianne Clarke Moore


This institution,
 perhaps one should say enterprise
 out of respect for which
 one says one need not change one's mind
 about a thing one has believed in,
 requiring public promises
 of one's intention
 to fulfill a private obligation:
 I wonder what Adam and Eve
 think of it by this time,
 this firegilt steel
 alive with goldenness;
 how bright it shows --
 "of circular traditions and impostures,
 committing many spoils,"
 requiring all one's criminal ingenuity
 to avoid!
 Psychology which explains everything
 explains nothing
 and we are still in doubt.
 Eve: beautiful woman --
 I have seen her
 when she was so handsome
 she gave me a start,
 able to write simultaneously
 in three languages --
 English, German and French
 and talk in the meantime;
 equally positive in demanding a commotion
 and in stipulating quiet:
 "I should like to be alone;"
 to which the visitor replies,
 "I should like to be alone;
 why not be alone together?"
 Below the incandescent stars
 below the incandescent fruit,
 the strange experience of beauty;
 its existence is too much;
 it tears one to pieces
 and each fresh wave of consciousness
 is poison.
 "See her, see her in this common world,"
 the central flaw
 in that first crystal-fine experiment,
 this amalgamation which can never be more
 than an interesting possibility,
 describing it
 as "that strange paradise
 unlike flesh, gold, or stately buildings,
 the choicest piece of my life:
 the heart rising
 in its estate of peace
 as a boat rises
 with the rising of the water;"
 constrained in speaking of the serpent --
 that shed snakeskin in the history of politeness
 not to be returned to again --
 that invaluable accident
 exonerating Adam.
 And he has beauty also;
 it's distressing -- the O thou
 to whom, from whom,
 without whom nothing -- Adam;
 "something feline,
 something colubrine" -- how true!
 a crouching mythological monster
 in that Persian miniature of emerald mines,
 raw silk -- ivory white, snow white,
 oyster white and six others --
 that paddock full of leopards and giraffes --
 long lemonyellow bodies
 sown with trapezoids of blue.
 Alive with words,
 vibrating like a cymbal
 touched before it has been struck,
 he has prophesied correctly --
 the industrious waterfall,
 "the speedy stream
 which violently bears all before it,
 at one time silent as the air
 and now as powerful as the wind."
 "Treading chasms 
 on the uncertain footing of a spear,"
 forgetting that there is in woman
 a quality of mind
 which is an instinctive manifestation
 is unsafe,
 he goes on speaking
 in a formal, customary strain
 of "past states," the present state,
 seals, promises, 
 the evil one suffered,
 the good one enjoys,
 hell, heaven,
 everything convenient
 to promote one's joy."
 There is in him a state of mind
 by force of which,
 perceiving what it was not
 intended that he should,
 "he experiences a solemn joy
 in seeing that he has become an idol."
 Plagued by the nightingale
 in the new leaves,
 with its silence --
 not its silence but its silences,
 he says of it:
 "It clothes me with a shirt of fire."
 "He dares not clap his hands
 to make it go on
 lest it should fly off;
 if he does nothing, it will sleep;
 if he cries out, it will not understand."
 Unnerved by the nightingale
 and dazzled by the apple,
 impelled by "the illusion of a fire
 effectual to extinguish fire,"
 compared with which
 the shining of the earth
 is but deformity -- a fire
 "as high as deep as bright as broad
 as long as life itself,"
 he stumbles over marriage,
 "a very trivial object indeed"
 to have destroyed the attitude
 in which he stood --
 the ease of the philosopher
 unfathered by a woman.
 Unhelpful Hymen!
 "a kind of overgrown cupid"
 reduced to insignificance
 by the mechanical advertising
 parading as involuntary comment,
 by that experiment of Adam's
 with ways out but no way in --
 the ritual of marriage,
 augmenting all its lavishness;
 its fiddle-head ferns,
 lotus flowers, opuntias, white dromedaries,
 its hippopotamus --
 nose and mouth combined
 in one magnificent hopper,
 "the crested screamer --
 that huge bird almost a lizard,"
 its snake and the potent apple.
 He tells us
 that "for love
 that will gaze an eagle blind,
 that is like a Hercules
 climbing the trees
 in the garden of the Hesperides,
 from forty-five to seventy
 is the best age,"
 commending it
 as a fine art, as an experiment,
 a duty or as merely recreation.
 One must not call him ruffian
 nor friction a calamity --
 the fight to be affec