National Poetry Month — Day 23

Okay, I admit that I’ve chosen this one of Marie Marshall’s Gothic poems in part because I love the picture she paired with it. The arched window which suggests the shape of the moon. The checkered floor. The drape of her gown, so detailed that I can see even from a black-and-white painting that it’s a particularly sumptuous velvet — and, by the way, a dress I would totally wear.

 

***

 

The crystal ball

 

Where has the seeress lost herself?
In what relentless seas
Sails she, with helmsman sprite or elf,
To seek elusive ease?

What worlds are cupped within her hands?
And where her steady gaze
Falls, are there rich, exotic lands
In sunlit ancient days?

Her lips that seem to wish a kiss,
Her beauty gowned in red –
Is all her being wrapt in bliss,
Or does she see the dead?

See there! Her grimoire and her wand –
Behind, a grinning skull –
Are spirits summoned to respond,
Or are her senses dull?

What knowledge, what enlightenment
Seeks she in realms arcane?
Beware, my sweet! All’s transient,
Your loveliness will wane!

Whatever is the magic lore
Whose secrets now entice
You through a dark and one-way door –
You pay too high a price!

So lady, lay that lore aside,
Forswear your mantic ball
For mind’s health, beauty’s morningtide –
Or, hazarding, lose all!

 

 

The Crystal Ball, by Waterhouse