Monday, November 17, 2008

Marianne Moore: What Are Years?

Ten years ago when my husband and I first met, before we were even dating, he made me a birthday card with a Marianne Moore poem handwritten on the back. With my birthday coming around this week, I've been thinking about this poem again.

Moore asserts that courage lies in accepting our mortality, and within those confines, managing to find (if not satisfaction) joy. At the time, I thought Kevin's card was sweet and thoughtful (he knew how much I admired Moore's poetry). But now, ten years later--I woke up this morning, we went through the confines of our daily routine (teeth, face, hair, coffee, work), and laughed about some little thing or another. On our drive to work, I watched the sun glancing off the last surviving leaves dangling from the trees and thought: How pure a thing is joy.

What Are Years?
by Marianne Moore

What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt, --
dumbly calling, deafly listening--that
in misfortune, even death,
encourages others
and in its defeat, stirs

the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
in its surrendering
finds its continuing.

So he who strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
This is mortality,
this is eternity.

4 comments:

teresa said...

I stumbled across your post while looking for a copy of this poem. Thank you for putting it online.

This poem has given me guidance on the cusp of my transition into the "real" world. Funnily enough, I looked it up to share with someone very special to me, with whom I hope to spend my life. I wanted to tell you this because I think it speaks to the power of a beautiful poem.

Happy Birthday, and congratulations on finding your eternity.

Josephine Cameron said...

Hi Teresa.
Thanks for stopping in and for taking a moment to leave such a nice note. Marianne Moore's poetry *does* carry a weight and power with it, doesn't it? Best of luck in your transition to the "real" world! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, I've always been a big fan of Marianne Moore and this poem in particular. I look forward to checking out more of your site(s).

David Cox

Josephine Cameron said...

Thanks for visiting, David!