Friday, June 26, 2015

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

Tanith Lee

Cool, your hair drifts like water,
As you move in this ancient sunrise dance
Which began with the first girl at the first well,
Her arms and yours like the necks of swans,
Twining the red pitcher.
This is how I shall remember you all my life.
This clear crystal daybreak thing,
After the night's sharing, the lamp, the dark,
The shelter of love.
So, in the wine-press of battle,
Trampled into a strong drink for death,
So in the marshes, and the bitter places,
In the rusty tents,
Hungry and thirsty, far from all wells,
And afraid,
So in pain and loss, so in dying, if some god wills it,
I will remember you, and your floating hair,
Turning and smiling, you, lifting the red pitcher from the well,
Like a dream not vanished with sleeping.

You must not weep now
That the charm of ivory you are pressing into my palm
Is too little.
It was so simple for you to give me something beautiful
To carry forward to the world's end.
It was so simple for you to give me something beautiful.

From Unsilent Night. Cambridge MA, The NESFA Press, © 1981

Yes, another poem by Tanith Lee, whom I featured only a month ago — because she is gone now, and because her poems are so hard to find. There is no volume of her 'collected' poems; there are none at PoemHunter or other such sites. There is only the slender book this poem came from, which I was able to get second-hand from Amazon, with the help of a friend in America, and which contains ten poems and two long stories.

If you missed the previous post, with details of her career, it is here.


  1. That was really lovely, another great poem!

  2. Thank you for something beautiful, Rosemary--a remembrance, a memorial.

  3. " It was so simple for you to give me something beautiful. " -- those were the words that moved me most! A lovely share.

  4. I had missed your other post so am catching up just now. This is a beautifully nostalgic poem.

  5. I just read your previous article on this author. I LOVE her poetry and am curious about her fiction novels. Thanks so much for paying tribute. I will definitely explore her work.

  6. "Her arms and yours like the necks of swans, twining the red pitcher"....such a beautiful beautiful poem, Rosemary. Wonderful choice! So sad there are not books of her work. Maybe one of her relatives will remedy that. Sorry I missed this yesterday. I have two babysitting jobs back to back! Crazy!

    1. Well, she was essentially a fiction writer, and those of her poems i have seen are fictions too, like this one, or are included as integral parts of her stories. She was very popular, but I don't think her writing (being genre) received quite the acclaim it deserved.

  7. This is absolutely classically beautiful. I shall go back and read about Tanith Lee - whom I am just meeting and now mourning


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