—after Henry James
1. Cambridge in winter
Immense pale houses! Sunshine just then and snow
Lit up and pauperized the whole brave show—
Each fanlight, each veranda, each good address,
All a mere paint-and-pasteboard paltriness!
The winter sunsets were the one fine thing:
Blood on the snow, one last impassioned fling,
The wild frankness and sadness of surrender—
As if a city ever could be tender!
2. Railway junction south of Richmond, past midnight
Indistinguishable engines hooting, red
Fires flaring, vanishing; a formless shed
Just straggling lifewards before sinking back
Into Dantean glooms beside the track,
All steam and smoke and earth—and even there,
Out of that little hell of spurts and hisses,
Came the first waftings of the Southern air,
Of open gates, of ail-but-bland abysses.
3. St. Michael’s Cemetery, Charleston
One could depend on the old cemetery
To say the one charmed thing there was to say.
A seaward low horizon seemed to carry
Hints of some other world beyond the bay,
The sun-warmed tombs, the flowers. Each faraway
Game-haunted inlet and reed-smothered isle
Spoke of lost Venices; and the South meanwhile
Had only to be tragic to beguile.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 3 Number 6, on page 42
Copyright © 2022 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com