Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

3: from ‘Poems 1918’ & ‘The Little Review’

Jessie Dismorr, writings from “Poems 1918” and The Little Review, 1918-19

“Poems 1918”

cover, 'Poems', 1918

Convalescent in the South [also in TLR 4.9 Jan 1918]
Spring [also in TLR 6.4 Aug 1919]
Promenade [also in Blast 2]
Rhapsody [also in TLR 4.11 March 1918]
Matinee [also in TLR 4.11 March 1918]
Landscape [also in TLR 6.4 Aug 1919]
Some Women
Maiden’s Prayer
The Present
Twilight [also in TLR 6.4 Aug 1919]

The Little Review 6.4 Aug 1919

The Enemy

[Where there are differences between unpublished and published versions, I have regarded the text of “Poems 1918” as definitive, and have noted variations after each item. The typesetter of The Little Review was, in Pound’s words, “a bugger”, so some obvious corrections have been made.]

“Poems 1918”

“The Stars are threshed, and the
Souls are threshed from their husks”

Convalescent in the South

Out of the horrid tangle of waters a faggot is tossed on to a couch of foam.
l am bedded in the silken winter of the south: storm and fever have ebbed away.
Oh, the lull of this security! I am emptied of my old violences!
Nevermore will delirium nor ecstacy shake the perilous nerve of the brain.

Tyranny has elicited sweetness; my eyes are dark with fidelity; dog-like, I nuzzle at the knee of power.
Why should I disdain theoretics? Docile to prescription I drag my body over yellow stones . . .
With rain-bows and webs of sunlight that quaint effigy of bones is garlanded. The warmth pricks and pickles its coat of membrane.

Caught at my breast, the frail rainbow of possibilities strains like a shimmering scarf.
Fresh games and ameliorations! This taste for delicate finery is a new thing.
Once like a gay circus-rider I paraded the fine animal that belonged to me.
All its bells and trappings clapping, it played its superb pranks.
Oh, the rapt performance in a well of round eyes and lifted palms!
Oh, the perfectly centralized stupidity of the arrived artiste!

The adoption of this novel aesthetic punishes like a graft of new bone.
I am the victim of my solitary perfectioning.
Dismayed, I watch the coloured company of boon delights roll away in a rattle of wheels and dust.
The involuntary stare of my elevation has cowed the creole and inconsequent mob.

Oh, hilarity of the senses, oh colour, enormity, ostentation of gold, your term has come!
A tardy primitivism supersedes the renaissance of gifts.
The superb nullity of the body no longer arrogates command.
Reactive to disaster, it must assume the lesser style of the inanimate.
As within a blackened tower, I sit morose and intelligent, the reconnoitrances of my five wits bringing me flesh and honey.
I no longer turn under my tongue the cud of intensive valuations. Wings carry my provision: vicissitude and long transit produce strange flavourings.

My appetite covets the secrets of ten million lives in lieu of my virginal stupidity.
Perfection alone balances perfection. My loss must be paid with omniscience and final concepts.
I have abandoned the banality of choice; I pursue the last intimacy with any stranger.
My personality unhedged admits the travelling seeds and dust of unnumbered cultures.
Observation is no longer a complacent and mirroring lake.
It is a flame, blown by my spirit. Nothing eludes the thrust of its streaming tongues.

Oh Happiness, I have not yet done with you! By all means I must preserve the attenuated thread of life.

I drag my body over yellow stones. The sunlight folds its emaciation in a web of gold.

[Also in TLR 4.9 Jan 1918 as “The Convalescent in the South”, where: stanza 1: “evil” for “horrid”; stanza 2: “prescription and advice” for “theoretics”, “Docile” for “Docile to prescription”, “paths” for “stones”, “ribbons” for “rain-bows”; stanza 5: “In it, as in” for “As within”, “fine” for “five”; stanza 6: “the spirit” for “my spirit”; stanza 8: “paths” for “stones”, “my emaciation” for “its emaciation”, “thread” for “web”.]


Excessive sweetness of bird’s singing pierces the epidermis of inattentive thought.
Pale poison, it creeps along the channels of the nerves, thrills in the finger tips, possesses the blood.
Because of it all appetite for appearances turns to nausea.
The senses reject their diet of accustomed joys.
Only essential seems that singular stabbing of edged notes, irregular, mercilessly unsubdued to music.

[Also in TLR 6.4 Aug 1919, where: “The excessive” for “Excessive”, “thin epidermis” for “epidermis”, “becomes diffused in” for “possesses”.]

[Promenade, previously in Blast 2.]


They escape into strong sun-light, the indignant and impassioned children, springing from caresses, their skins revolted at the touch of hands.
With stern eyes dissecting maternal ardours they surprise therein the chemistry of re-absorption. (It is the inadmissible experiment.)
Shall they yield lips to that fluid, whose action must dissolve the shapeliness of their fine entities?
Whence shall they extract life?
Swiftness feeds them, pressure of flying dust, the ceaseless dislodgement of space.
They break into calls one to another, more radiant than song. Each call is the ignition of a new dawn.
Nothing responds to them on earth. It is become a desert whose amazed stare allows them passage.
What equivalent could it offer in tree or flood?
The indignity of its routine, its wobbling circuit – how the finality of its course shames their divagations!
No possible halt nor error! Their way is a clear sword upon which melancholy has not breathed.
They are not accessible to pain or loss; their sapience can dispense with measure.
The droppings of their flying thought are star-dust fallen through the dark.

[Not in TLR. Line 9: “divigations” for “divagations” in the ms.]


The Croisette trembles in the violent matutinal light; shapes quicken and pass; the day moves. My nerves spring to the task of acquisitiveness.
The secret of my success is a knowledge of the limitedness of time.
Economy is scientific: I understand the best outlay of attention.
Within this crazy shell, an efficient machinery mints satisfactions.
Your pity is a systematic mistake. I may yet grow arrogant on the wastage of other lives. The holes of my sack spill treasure.
Who but I should be susceptible to the naked pressure of things?
Between me and apprehension no passions draw their provoking dissimulative folds.
I have not clouded heaven with the incense of personal demand.
Myself and the universe are two entities. Those unique terms admit the possibility of clean intercourse.
All liaisons smell of an inferior social grade; but alliance can dispense with fusion and touch.
I treat with respect the sparkling and gesticulating dust that confronts me: of it are compounded fruits and diamonds, superb adolescents, fine manners.
This pigment, disposed by the ultimate vibrations of force, paints the universe in a contemporary mode.
I am glad it is up-to-date and ephemeral; that I am to be diverted by a succession of fantasies.
The static cannot claim my approval. I live in the act of departure. Eternity is for those who can dispose of an amplitude of time.
Pattern is enough. I pray you, do not mention the soul.
Give me detail and the ardent ceremonial of commonplaces that means nothing.
Oh, the ennui of inconceivable space! My travelling spirit will taste too soon of emptiness.
I thrill to the microscopic. I plunder the close-packed cells and burrows of life.
The local has always the richness of a brocade: it is worth while to explore the design.
I spell happiness out of dots and dashes; a ray, a tone, the insignificance of a dangling leaf.
Provided it have a factual existence the least atom will suffice my need.
But I cannot stomach shadows. It is certain that the physical round world would fit my mouth like a lollipop.
You ask: To what end this petty and ephemeral busyness, this last push of human sensation?
Is one then a neophyte in philosophy, demanding reasons and results?
I proclaim life to the end a piece of artistry, essentially idle and exquisite.
The trinkets stored within my coffin will outlast my dust.

[Also in TLR 4.11 March 1918, where: line 1: “quisitiveness” for “acquisitiveness”; line 3: “intention” for “attention”; line 8: “demand” for “motive”; line 19: “brocade for “a brocade”; line 21: “has” for “have”; line 26: “shall” for “will”.]


I was the top-most apple on the tree.
A blossom has fruited beyond me.

Whereas it was casualness I cultivated
And a dainty indifference to credit
It shall now be Faith, Hope and Charity,
A code of common notices
And the stooping grace.

Else must I split with my spite
And not among sodden roots!

[Not in TLR.]


The immense grey sky, wheeling towards me and onto me, against it I have … what resource?
In the swarthy limbs of the trees that march over me as I lie pallid, holding to the earth, what danger!
Nevertheless a creature thus drugged and bound by Immortality, am I not already destroyed by the rigorous onrush of Time?

[“Lanscape”[sic] in the ms. Also in TLR 6.4 Aug 1919.]

Some Women

Frail ones who flutter in the Southern glass
Your phantom brushes a wing across my lids,
Glitters and is gone,
While remains the quickened eye-thirst and a certain reflectiveness.
I see that your business is the art of disappointment,
Nor impute an idle malice. You might be called generous.
Should you linger it is admitted you have less to give.
For what modesty could match the parade of your inner beauties?
Beneath the convolutions of so divine a millinery could one appraise the form?
You lend us the passage of your daring shape
Frayed by the meridional light, while among the rays
Twists the equivocal eye-beam that gives the sense of all.
Were your looks innocent there would be less to say,
Or had you anything to give beyond the titillation of flight,
But as it is upon your frailty
Has been grounded the whole fabric of knowledge.

[Not in TLR.]

Maiden’s Prayer

The thought comes “Shall I be happy?” and with the doubt
Trembles my flowery trellis, the bright streamers are pushed aside.
Sweet Nature, I run to you to hold me till this fright is past.
If I am not fortunate I am nothing. I cannot scheme conquest.
But you are my Mother; your management shall supplement my small wits.
I prepared my filial kiss night and morning; my white prayers flew against your bosom in mistake for God.
(Alas, He scares me, the strange one. His eye is neither male nor female.)
But you have no trace of Justice. Your stoop is toward the well favoured.
When I touch my bosom in supplication I grow confident.

Oh, I am docile and tender. I have observed you and moulded myself.
I heel and toe to your pulses. I waver to the stream of your breath.
I am but one of your children and not mutinous.
The grass waves, the moth flutters and I dance.

La, la, la, this folly! You Mother will not mistake it for idleness.
I turn with a click of my delicate heels, unminding the vast reverberations in space.
I am too well bred to listen, to stare or to ask questions.
The song might drown on my lips and the spinning world drop slack.
But the danger was prepared for – my nature prohibits recognizance.
My shallowness threads the generations, and the silk will hold.

All wisdom is barren, you have said it, the last state before death.
I hold the creed. Make me fortunate!
For I admit nothing, oh Mother, save the tinkling of tunes that run in my blood
And each fancy that starts a faint physical pulse, and ends in a cascade of flowers.

[Not in TLR.]

The Present

Oh, actuality,
Into thy rare flood
Where meet all waters
I plunge this body
With contentment!

Slowly we learn the taste of happiness.
With what travail of brain cells
And a rigorous aesthetic
Ensues the connection
Of the necessity of this joy.

Yet the spinning liquid
That laves me
Is surely the solution
Of a million coloured gems!

[Not in TLR.]


The just mood spent fulminating
Against the soiled intricacies
Of a sweetish civilization
Betakes its anger
To a plot of solitude,
There against encroachment
To strengthen the granite
Of a contemptuous peace.

Is this then, oh honour,
The sum of all interrogation?
A clean withdrawal,
And power inexperimented
In too slight material?
A security
Issueless, impermeable,
Close simulacre of the sheet pocket of death?
Think you with such immaculacy
To blunt the general urge,
Or punish the push of atoms
And obstinate burgeoning
In cracks of  mortar?
Dare you, oh honesty complete,
Blink the eventuality
Of a toppled defence?
Or could it be rather
An original prudency
That this averted aspect,
Contesting no sweep of the central impulses
And one with life’s business,
Presents the mode of an exigent masculinity
Sifting earth for its mate?

[Not in TLR.]


This is the desired moment. Now activities crowd upon me. Initiations twist themselves into the shapes of words.
My impulse stirs the fragments of which earth is composed; there is a movement towards the classic and complete.
I call the universe to order. The irregularity of phenomena is no longer supportable.
These individuals must surrender their angularities of character and fit themselves with complacency into the shape of music.
Life and experience organize a last rebellion.
There is a juggling of atoms, a sudden gymnastic of force.
My antagonists, you are my predestined material! These are the pieces of my game:
Dreams, the very flow of facts, hereditary thirsts stringing varied existences upon a thread of care,
Keen, trembling hates, weapons with sure points that prick invisibility, nostalgias whose veins are flooded with too rich a dye,
And those, the final flashes, snapt short and sputtering in ruin, and the stench that fills up the dark.
Personalities long inviolate, you are appointed instruments without degradation.
(For in secret for ages the immaculate republic sought a tyrant to be the recipient of its tears.)
Resistance is the climax of your beauty. Your moment of perfection is alone serviceable.
What metamorphosis awaits beyond the limits of surrender?
You shall be driven into what cold moulds of perfected form?

[Not in TLR.]


Erect and of a curious emaciation the tall virgin paces the sands at nightfall.
Around her limbs the wind twists her sinuous garments, the locks are whirled about her bossy temples.
The treasure within her bosom is the finely selected material that fits into a little space.
The talisman is discreet but absolute. She is immune from dissolution forever.
(Oh Sorrow, oh Penalty, Life has eluded her contact).
The pain that is her heart, the swiftness of her limbs, these are the last gift of civilization.
But her arbitrary erectness is eternally menaced.
Sea and sand and the bars of sinking cloud do not cease to urge her to the level of Nature’s indiscriminate embrace.

[Also in TLR 6.4 Aug 1919.]


She has preferred energy to beauty, friendship to love, to children a dozen secular activities.
Thus is prolonged the youth of her fine body and all its swiftness.
The sorrows she has encountered are not the sorrows of her sex, they are owned without confusion.
Delightful is her laughter, the chime of true appreciations.
Clear her tones, free from malice.
How fairly toward life she lifts an unchastened eye-lid!
But her courage is a flaw of the intelligence.
The Past and the Future deal idly with her; she is a spend-thrift of her hour.
She has not on several occasions seen death draw close swollen through the medium of fear.
She remains unbaptized to this date.

[Not in TLR.]


To Strangers – all my curiosity and artlessness.
To my Lovers – an eternal regret.
To my Friends – more insistent demands, the last enigma of conduct, a few gifts.

[Not in TLR.]

The Little Review 
6.4 Aug 1919

The Enemy

The microbe that inhabits my body makes me sick; but it is he that pushes me to impossible and exasperated feats of skill.
He drinks my strength, then pushes me to unwilling exploration.

[Not in “Poems 1918”.]


In that restless sea which is eternity the little islands of event float among the waves.
(Are they water blossoms with roots continually shaken, floating their petals on the pulsating water? Are they a flotilla of frail boats trembling to the touches of interminable ripples?)
Even at flood time when from some ocean of inconceivable vastness the great tides pour into the brimming sea, the imperishable islands, fragile and obstinate, achieve their breathless equilibrium.

[Not in “Poems 1918”.]


Having pricked the polished surfaces of life and defaced them and having dammed in thin close limits of expediency
the perilous tides of affection
she now for sole occupation
cherishes a little pure flame, thin as a mist without heat.

[Not in “Poems 1918”.]

design 1918

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