By Amy Lowell
FIFTEEN years is not a long time,
But long enough to build a city over and destroy it;
Long enough to clean a forty-year growth of grass from between cobblestones,
And run street-car lines straight across the heart of romance.
Commerce, are you worth this?
I should like to bring a case to trial:
Prosperity versus Beauty,
Cash registers teetering in a balance against the comfort of the soul.
Then, tonight, I stood looking through a grilled gate
At an old dark garden.
Live-oak trees dripped branchfuls of leaves over the wall;
Acacias waved dimly beyond the gate, and the smell of their blossoms
Puffed intermittently through the wrought-iron scrollwork.
Challenge and solution—
O loveliness of old, decaying, haunted things!
Little streets untouched, shamefully paved,
Full of mist and fragrance on this rainy evening.
“You should come at dawn,” said my friend,
“And see the orioles, and thrushes, and mocking-birds
In the garden.”
“Yes,” I said absent-mindedly,
And remarked the sharp touch of ivy upon my hand which rested against the wall.
But I thought to myself,
There is no dawn here, only sunset,
And an evening rain scented with flowers.
Contributing editor and S.C. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth writes that this poem is from Amy Lowell’s book, What’s O’Clock, which was published by Houghton Mifflin Co. in 1925. The following year, Lowell, who died in 1925, received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Lowell (1874-1925) was from Brookline, Mass. Her first book of poetry was published in 1912. Learn more here.