Amy Lowell

from Lacquer Prints (1913-1919)


Upon the maple leaves
The dew shines red,
But on the lotus blossom
It has the pale transparence of tears.


When I stand under the willow-tree
Above the river,
In my straw-coloured silken garment
Embroidered with purple chrysanthemums,
It is not at the bright water
That I am gazing,
But at your portrait,
Which I have caused to be painted
On my fan.

Near Kioto

As I crossed over the bridge of Ariwarano Narikira,
I saw that the waters were purple
With the floating leaves of maple.

Yoshiwara Lament

Golden peacocks
Under blossoming cherry-trees,
But on all the wide sea
There is no boat.

A Year Passes

Beyond the porcelain fence of the pleasure garden,
I hear the frogs in the blue-green rice-fields;
But the sword-shaped moon
Has cut my heart in two.


All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

The Emperor’s Garden

Once, in the sultry heats of Midsummer,
An Emperor caused the miniature mountains in his garden
To be covered with white silk,
That so crowned
They might cool his eyes
With the sparkle of snow.

One of the “Hundred Views of Fuji” by Hokusai

Being thirsty,
I filled a cup with water,
And, behold! Fuji-yama lay upon the water
like a dropped leaf!


Even the iris bends
When a butterfly lights upon it.

Nuit Blanche

The chirping of crickets in the night
Is intermittent,
Like the twinkling of stars.

Spring Dawn

He wore a coat
With gold and red maple leaves,
He was girt with the two swords,
He carried a peony lantern.
When I awoke,
There was only the blue shadow of the plum-tree
Upon the shôji.

Again the New Year Festival

I have drunk your health
In the red-lacquer wine cups,
But the wind-bells on the bronze lanterns
In my garden
Are corroded and fallen.

The Kagoes of a Returning Traveller

Diagonally between the cryptomerias,
What I took for the flapping of wings
Was the beating feet of your runners,
O my Lord!

Outside a Gate

On the floor of the empty palanquin
The plum petals constantly increase.

Road to the Yoshiwara

Coming to you along the Nihon Embankment
Suddenly the road was darkened
By a flock of wild geese
Crossing the moon.

A Daimyo’s Oiran

When I hear your runners shouting:
“Get down! Get down!”
Then I dress my hair
With the little chrysanthemums.


Although so many years,
Still the vows we made each other
Remain tied to the great trunk
Of the seven separate trees
In the courtyard of the Crimson Temple
At Nara.




Lowell’s ‘Lacquer Prints’ began appearing in journals as early as 1912, and appeared together, in increasingly larger numbers, in the March 1917 Poetry (BI4), Some Imagist Poets (BI5), and Pictures of the Floating World (BI8).

For an overview of Lowell’s Japanese interests see Amy Lowell and Japan in the Bibliography, and for a note about Lowells work that is in print see A Japanese Wood Carving.




















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