Waltz

Daisy and Lily,
Lazy and silly,
Walk by the shore of the wan grassy sea, --
Talking once more 'neath a swan-bosomed tree.
Rose castles,
Tourelles,
Those bustles
Where swells
Each foam-bell of ermine,
They roam and determine
What fashions have been and what fashions will be, --

What tartan leaves born,
What crinolines worn.
By Queen Thetis,
Pelisses
Of tarlatine blue,
Like the thin plaided leaves that the castle crags grew;
Or velours d'Afrande:
On the water-gods' land
Her hair seemed gold trees on the honey-cell sand
When the thickest gold spangles, on deep water seen,
Were like twanging guitar and like cold mandoline,
And the nymphs of great caves,
With hair like gold waves
Of Venus, wore tarlatine.
Louis and Charlottine
(Boreas' daughters)
And the nymphs of deep waters,
The nymph Taglioni, Grisi the ondine,
Wear plaided Victoria and thin Clementine
Like the crinolined waterfalls;
Wood-nymphs wear bonnets, shawls;
Elegant parasols
Floating were seen.

The Amazons wear balzarine of jonquille
Beside the blond lace of a deep-falling rill;
Through glades like a nun
They run from and shun
The enormous and gold-rayed rustling sun;
And the nymphs of the fountains
Descend from the mountains
Like elegant willows
On their deep barouche pillows,
In cashmere Alvandar, barege Isabelle,
Like bells of bright water from clearest wood-well.
Our elegantes favouring bonnets of blond,
The stars in their apiaries,
Sylphs in their aviaries,
Seeing them, spangle these, and the sylphs fond
From their aviaries fanned
With each long fluid hand
The manteaux espagnoles,
Mimic the waterfalls
Over the long and the light summer land.

So Daisy and Lily,
Lazy and silly,
Walk by the shore of the wan grassy sea,
Talking once more 'neath a swan-bosomed tree.
Rose castles,
Tourelles,
Those bustles!
Mourelles
Of the shade in their train follow.
Ladies, how vain, -- hollow, --
Gone is the sweet swallow, --
Gone, Philomel!

 

Poem by Edith Sitwell. Fashions by Zandra Rhodes.

Edith Sitwell Speaks

"Hello, Daniel. This is Dame Edith Sitwell."
"Dame Edith. I am surprised.... Pardon my rudeness, but I was under the impression that you were no longer living."
"I am dead, it's true, but so is every other personality on this damnable website."
"Now that you mention it, Dame Edith.... Purely accidental, that...."
"It's the easy way out. You can do violence to their memory and they can't complain."
"Now wait just a minute, Dame Edith. Just a minute! My intentions are honorable."
"Spoken like a true villain. And now you do violence to me."
"Dame Edith, you are a marvel. To what do I owe this honor?"
"You honor thyself, fool. Do you know your place as an artist?"
"I follow my conscience. I was not aware of any bylaws for artistic behavior, my lady."

"Don't mock me young man. Now listen. An artist is like a child. In childhood, everything is foreshortened. 'In one short hour, Eternity. In one small lens, Infinity.' Distance is like some lovely wild creature -- a faun, a nymph, a naiad, friendly for all its shyness -- that lives in the woods and is ready to come at the child's behest. The child  meets such beings and believes in them. Only later do we see the trees, the rivers, the flowers. With age the bright visions of childhood dim. But the artist retains that curious sensitivity to impressions and atmosphere and that intense yet fantastic seriousness which is the basis of the child's mind. Life appears to the artist as sharp outlines, bright colors, and strange meetings.... The difference is that the artist has lost all the self-consciousness of childhood, and is taking us into his confidence."

"You are speaking for yourself, Dame Edith."
"Naturally. It's what I do. It's what I do. What I did, pardon me."
"You're always writing about honey-hives and bees and golden stars. Explain."
"Very well. Bees are the agents of time, echoing like whispers across the river-dark palace floors. They are the echoes of rococo gilt carvings, of fires behind courtly doors. The lips of Narcissus are scented, perfumed like a star. The bee carries Youth's voice through corridors, along rivers, and so the naiad's return. Only the young, only the young.

"The flowers that bud like rain and dream
On thin boughs water-clear,
Fade away like a lovely music
Nobody will hear.
And Aeolus and Boreas
Brood among those boughs,
Like hermits haunting dark caves
None but the wise man knows."

"Rivers or winds of time, and so on."
"You insolent monkey! Please do no more violence to my memory. Please publish if you will my poem entitled You, the Young Rainbow."
"Here it is, my lady."

You, the Young Rainbow

You, the young Rainbow of my tears, the gentle Halcyon
Over the troubled waters of my heart:
Lead now, as long ago, my grief, your flock, over the hollow
Hills to the far pastures of lost heaven.
But they are withered, the meadows and the horizon
Of the gentle Halcyon, hyacinthine sun;
Cold are the boughs, the constellations falling
From the spring branches; and your heart is far
And cold as Arcturus, the distance of all light-years
From the flowering earth and darkness of my heart.

"Let me see. Halcyon is Alcyone, daughter of the wind god, but represents in general the Pleiades."
"Think of the Sun descending to Arcturus, and of Arcturus in turn descending to Alcyone. The halcyon is a winter bird not afraid to fly across water."
"The hyacinth?"
"Alcyone, the farthest star, is bluish and cold. The Pleiades are like winter snows fallen from spring branches."
"The Young Rainbow?"
"It's the bridge across suns: from Winter to Spring to Summer."
"Arcturus is Spring?"
"A 'red-gold sun with the fleece of a fox, who will steal the fluttering bird you hide in your breast.' "
"So, logically, Arcturus has stolen from the Pleiades or Alcyone."
"Yes, and the Earth, which is bright Summer, from Arcturus."
"A progression in time. But the heart is cold."
"Wintry, Daniel. Gone is the sweet swallow, gone Philomel."

On Beauty
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